NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

Wisps of warm dust in Barnard 3 wrap around creating an eye or bubble in space in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Explore the brush-like strokes of gas and dust in this image. What stories or shapes do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

Barnard 3, also called IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, is a huge interstellar cloud of gas and dust. It is a perfect place for new stars to form. WISE detects infrared light. We feel infrared light as heat. WISE can peer deep into nebulae to see warm patches that may become new stars. As you zoom across the image it is hard not to stop at the bright star in the middle of the red mist. This part of the cloud is very warm. This star is a huge, luminous star called HD 278942. Ultraviolet radiation streaming outward from the star is likely causing the rest of the cloud to glow. Strong solar winds from this star push away gas and dust and create the ring. Green areas in the cloud are made up of tiny particles of stuff that resembles smog. Yellowish areas in the cloud are areas where dust is more dense. The blue dots scattered throughout the image are stars.

Barnard 3 is found fairly close to Earth; only about 1,000 light-years away. It’s well within the Milky Way Galaxy toward the constellation of the mythical hero Perseus and Taurus, the Bull.

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