Stars in Stars


Brilliant blue stars of NGC 6604 are scattered widely in the rich starfields of Serpens, the Serpent in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Zoom into the nebula deep in the sweep of the Milky Way. What stories or shapes do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The star cluster NGC 6604 is a young star cluster with only a few hundred hot blue-white stars. The cluster lies within its birth nebula. The glowing hydrogen gas is a perfect place for new stars to be born. Parts of the dust cloud collapse under gravity. As more and more material gathers, the gravity becomes stronger and starts to warm. Eventually, the temperature at the heart of the spinning cloud of gas and dust might become high enough to allow for fusion to take place. When that happens, a star is born. The hot blue stars give off a strong solar wind pushing the dust cloud away. The stars also give off blistering ultraviolet radiation that excites the atoms within the nebula causing it to glow.

Astronomers using the ESO’s Wide Field Imager attached to the 2.2-meter MPG/ESO telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile captured this image of the faint nebula and star clsuter. NGC 6604 lies about 5,500 light-years from Earth. The star cluster is easily seen in small telescopes. The surrounding nebula, however, is very faint. Astronomers using photographic film discovered the nebula only in the 20th century.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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