FromQuarkstoQuasars

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 6/27/15 — Cygnus-X

Jaime TrosperJune 27th 2015
Cygnus-X
Cygnus-X star forming region  (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

There are many colorful and beautifully complex places where new stars continue to arise. Our galaxy alone has thousands of these star forming regions (however, it might surprise you to learn that astronomers estimate only 6 stars form per year in the Milky Way), none is larger and more dynamic than what you see here.

This particular stellar nursery, called Cygnus-X, can be found roughly 4,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus. Not only have astronomers identified 800 distinct HII regions thus far, but it’s so large, from tip-to-tail, it measures around 600 light-years across, which means it would take light 600 years to travel from one side to the other, and that’s moving at the speed of light. A shuttle, on the other hand, travelling at its top-speed would take 23.4 MILLION years to make a one-way trip.

Taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope, this image of Cygnus-X is color-coded, corresponding to temperature. Regions that are the hottest are represented in blue, whilst cooler regions are coded in red. According to NASA, “The brightest, yellow-white regions are warm centers of star formation. The green shows tendrils of dust, and red indicates other types of dust that may be cooler, in addition to ionized gas from nearby massive stars.”

Also present are numerous bubbles of gas, which were made hollow by stellar winds from embedded stars. Some have even birthed new stars, and will likely continue to churn them out for some time to come. (See a larger image here)

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