Starry Critters

Cool Cosmic Shades

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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With sparkling stars for gems, Messier 78 glows like a pair of cool cosmic shades in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Explore the greenish nebula. What other shapes or images do you see in this image? Leave a note below.

The two round nebulae that make up M78 are actually cavities carved out of a darker dust clouds. Intense light and blistering ultraviolet radiation streaming from newborn stars carve cavities from the dust. This dust helped create the new stars. Spitzer looks deep into the clouds revealing warm objects deep within the cold cloud. It’s that warm dust that shows so brightly in this image. Through a telescope, we cannot see these new stars. Along the rim of the glasses, look for a string of reddish pinpoints. These are new stars that have yet to blow away the shells of gas and dust from which they were born.

Messier 78 is easily seen through a small telescope just northeast of Orion’s belt from Earth. The nebula is found about 1,600 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.

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