Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 December 26
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Young Star, Dark Cloud
Credit: A. Noriega-Crespo (SSC/Caltech) et al., JPL, Caltech, NASA (Inset: Digital Sky Survey)

Explanation: High-speed outflows of molecular gas from a young stellar object glow in infrared light, revealing themselves in this recent false-colour image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Catalogued as HH (Herbig-Haro) 46/47 the infrared source is lodged within a dark nebula or Bok globule - near the lower right corner of the dark nebula in the optical inset - that is largely opaque when viewed in visible light. The energetic outflow features extend for nearly a light-year, burrowing into the dark interstellar material, and are attributed to early stages in the life of a sun-like star. They may well represent a phase of our own Sun's evolution which took place some 4.5 billion years ago, along with the formation of our solar system from a circumstellar disk. A tantalizing object to explore with Spitzer's infrared capabilities, this young star system is relatively nearby, located only some 1,140 light-years distant in the nautical constellation Vela.

Tomorrow's picture: seven sisters

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