Image Credit: Robert Gendler, Jan-Erik Ovaldsen

In this image, ultraviolet radiation emitted from baby stars power a cosmic nebula, called the Flame nebula (I believe it more closely resembles blood pumping throughout a human heart), which can be found some 1,300 light-years from Earth (in the constellation of Orion).

At optical wavelengths (pictured on the left), we see the reddish hue that is a classic example of hydrogen ionization. "Ionization" refers to the process in which hydrogen atoms are stripped clean of their electrons. The characteristic glow is a byproduct of the reunion between the hydrogen atoms and their electrons.

Image Credit: Schneider/André/Könyves, ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE (via NatGeo)

We see a conflicting view when we look at the region at infrared wavelengths (pictured on the right). In this image, which was taken by the European Space Agency's "Herschel Space Telescope," the primary star responsible for illuminating the nebula can be seen.

Interestingly (though it might not be apparent), this star is about 200 times more massive than our parent star. If we were able to see it in all of its glory (without all of the dense grains of interstellar dust blocking our view), it would be about 4 BILLION times more luminous. That is a testament to not only the sheer size of the star, but to the concentration of the dust burrowed within the clouds.

See additional images here or here.


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