New photo, snapped by the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory,
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shows Cygnus-X, an extremely active star-forming region about 4,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan). As said researchers in the new photo, bright white areas highlight areas where large stars have recently formed out of such clouds. These clumps are particularly evident in the right-hand side of the image, which shows a chaotic network of filaments. Dense knots of gas and dust mark places where these filaments meet and collapse to form new stars, and where these stars’ powerful radiation carves out gigantic bubble-like structures. In the center of the picture, intense radiation from stars undetected at Herschel’s wavelengths has partly cleared and heated interstellar material, which glows blue in this representation. The small red blobs scattered throughout the image map out the relatively cold seeds of future stars. The ring of material at the bottom of the image was likely ejected by an unseen supergiant star known as G79.29+0.46. On the left, a pillar of gas resembling a swan’s neck is prominent.The Herschel observatory sees extremely well in far-infrared wavelengths, allowing scientists to seek out and study stellar nurseries like Cygnus-X, places where dense clumps of gas have been gently heated by stars. Herschel is the largest infrared telescope ever lofted into space. It has a primary mirror approximately 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) wide. Herschel was originally called the Far InfraRed and Submillimeter Telescope, or FIRST.