On Friday, December 16th, NASA released a photo taken from the Hubble Space Telescope capturing an incredible cluster of stars in a cosmic cloud. The NASA picture looks otherworldly and, well, it is, since it’s 4,350 light-years away from us on Earth. The image is stunning to those who just find space pretty, but it’s also amazing for astronomers.
The image is of NGC 6530, a young cluster of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius. “The cluster is set within the larger Lagoon Nebula,” NASA explains, “a gigantic interstellar cloud of gas and dust.”
Can you explain what we see in these photos like we’re 5 years old?
There’s no question that this image is stunning. It looks like a gorgeous watercolor painting, but what are we really looking at here?
NASA explains that the photo shows “a collection of thousands of stars” in the Lagoon Nebula, a “stellar nursery with scorching temperatures, stellar winds, and powerful radiation.” The stars begin to form in “a gigantic cloud of interstellar dust and gas.”
Describing the incredible image, the agency explains what is happening in the photo.
“In every direction, cloudy waves and bands of red, orange, blue, green, and yellow crash over each other. The clouds appear almost like a liquid, mixing and blending with their surroundings. Small white, blue, and purple dots of stars appear at random throughout the image."
To capture this image, NASA astronomers used the Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on the Hubble Telescope. The Wide Field Camera 3 captured the near-infrared wavelengths, and all the data and imagery all help scientists take another step closer to understanding the origin of exo-planetary systems.