Image Credit: ESA and the SPIRE consortium

This unusual image was put together using an instrument aboard the Herschel Space Observatory (before it went kaput), called the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (otherwise known as SPIRE): a tool that specializes in looking at light on the far end of the infrared spectrum.

The region in question can be found approximately 60° from the galactic center, toward the constellation of the Southern Cross. Given its cold nature, it’s a perfect target for SPIRE; with amazing clarity, the instrument—with help from Herschel’s photodetector array camera—sheds light not just on temperature, but on mass, concentration, composition, and whether or not star formation will be triggered in the near future.

Ultimately, it learned that the cloud is much more active than one might expect it to be, with the cool gas, in particular, undergoing an intense period of turbulence. This activity culminates in gravity taking hold of the materials and forging them into interconnected filamentary structures, which are set alight by the fiery winds of newborn stars (some older generations remain as well).

According to the European Space Agency,

Cool yellow sections reveal the locations in which the most embryonic stars lurk, blue gas is the warmest, while the red colors represent the coldest gas. Green is ‘lukewarm.’ (See a larger image here)

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