Cosmic spider shows clear signs of active star formation
Captured by the SpitzerSpace Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), theSpider Nebula cuts a ghostly green figure in a new image release from NASA. The composite was captured in infrared light, a spectrumordinarily invisible to the naked eye, though in this case commoncolors have been assigned to the different wavelengths allowing us toview the scene unaided.
We recently took a lookat an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope,displaying a stunning vista of the Milky Way's nuclear star cluster,which is believed to veil the supermassive black hole known asSagittarius A* lurking at the heart of our galaxy. The newly-releasedimage of the Spider Nebula represents the polar opposite of that starpanorama.
The Spider Nebulalies in almost the opposite direction to the galactic center, towards the edge of the Milky Way, some 10,000 light-years distant fromEarth in the constellation Auriga, also known as the "charioteer."
Infraredlight captured by 2MASS with a wavelength of 1.2 microns was assignedthe color blue. Wavelengths of 3.6 microns detected by Spitzer aredisplayed as green, while 4.5 microns appears as red.
TheSpider, like the majority of nebulae in the Milky Way, is believed tobe a focal point for star creation. Such activity is easy to spot inthe release as the stellar winds emanating from the vast star cluster"Stock 8," which can be observed to the center-right of theimage as a concentration of bright stellar bodies, have worked todisperse the otherwise well defined structure of the nebula.
Youngerred stars can be observed in the earlier stages of their life-cycleclustered in a filament-like structure to the left of the central"tail" of the nebula.