The stars in this image look like shiny little jewels that have been painted on a mindbogglingly large - but breathtakingly beautiful - backdrop.


There bright beacons are actually called "Serpens South," and our cosmic jewels are actually stars in a dense, but somewhat small, cluster. This cluster traverses the cosmos which some than 848 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Serpens. Each belongs to the southernmost portion of a molecular cloud of the same name. Among the stellar siblings, there are about 50 stars. Most of these are still in the earlier stages of stellar formation, meaning that they are still protostars. The remainder are in various stages of formation.


The green "glue" that appears to hold the stars in the cluster together is actually hydrogen gas. The gas leaves behind a stellar fingerprint when intensely hot jets spew hydrogen from the baby stars, where it eventually meets cooler surrounding material. While the red areas are composed of organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (on Earth, that positively splendid substance is similar to soot). The black line separating the various regions is a dark nebulae.

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