Friday, March 29, 2013

Churning Out Stars

W3 is an enormous stellar nursery about 6,200 light-years away in the Perseus Arm, one of the Milky Way galaxy’s main spiral arms, which hosts both low- and high-mass star formation. In this image from the Herschel space observatory, the low-mass forming stars are seen as tiny yellow dots embedded in cool red filaments, while the highest-mass stars -- with greater than eight times the mass of our sun -- emit intense radiation, heating up the gas and dust around them and appearing here in blue. 

This three-color image of W3 combines Herschel bands at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red). The image spans about 2 by 2 degrees. North is up and east is to the left.

Image credit: ESA/PACS & SPIRE consortia, A. Rivera-Ingraham & P.G. Martin, Univ. Toronto, HOBYS Key Programme (F. Motte)

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