Starry Garden of Petals and Waves

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/L. Allen (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) and the IRAC GTO Team

A starry garden full of dusty petals and waves of gas fill this image of the Coronet Cluster from NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Explore the star-forming clouds of the Coronet Cluster. What patterns or stories do you see? Leave a note below.

The Coronet Cluster lies at the heart of this nebula in the Corona Australis region. Like the well-known Orion Nebula, this region of space is full of gas and dust creating a perfect place for stars to form. As gas and dust gather in the nebula, gravity pulls it together. When enough material clumps together, the cloud can begin to collapse. A star is born when it shines on its own and starts to convert hydrogen gas into energy in a process called fusion.

The infrared eyes of the Spitzer Space Telescope peer through the thick dust of this nebula showing faint structures not seen with our regular eyes. New stars in the central cluster of stars warm and excite the hydrogen gas in the cloud causing it to glow. If you look closely in the center of the image, you can see a sheet of green gas. This cold dust reflects the light from the new stars rather than glowing.

The nebula surrounding the Coronet Cluster is one of the nearest and most active regions of star formation. The cluster is found about 424 light-years from Earth toward the faint constellation Corona Australis, or the Southern Crown. The ancient Greeks saw the constellation as a laurel wreath, not as a crown.

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