Thursday, December 30, 2010

NASA WISE Image: Flaming Star Nebula

An image of the Flaming Star Nebula, taken in infrared light by NASA's WISE space telescope.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

The new pictures from WISE — short for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which launched on Dec. 14, 2009 — are dramatic, colourful images of interstellar clouds of gas and dust called nebulas.
The first photo depicts a structure known as the Flaming Star Nebula, which is about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Auriga.

At the nebula's heart is the star AE Aurigae, which appears to be ablaze, hence the name.
AE Aurigae is a so-called runaway star, researchers said. It was likely born in the Trapezium Cluster, in the constellation Orion, but was booted out by a collision with a binary star system about 2.5 million years ago.
The enhanced colours seen in the image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light, which unaided human eyes cannot see. 

Hot stars scattered throughout the nebula show up as blue and cyan. Glowing gas appears green, while heated-up dust is primarily red, researchers said.

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