IMAGE: Star-forming clouds in the galactic plane — wide range infrared image from ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory //  Source: ESA/PACS and SPIRE Consortium, S. Molinari, Hi-GAL Project  //  Via News in Science (ABC Science)

The image was acquired as a part of Hi-GAL [the Herschel infrared Galactic Plane Survey], a survey mapping the entire plane of the Milky Way in a wide range of infrared light that Herschel was specially designed to detect.

  • Normally invisible to our eyes, vast filaments of gas and dust fill the plane of the galaxy where stars like our Sun reside.
  • As these cold clouds of interstellar material collapse, they get denser and denser until they eventually form stars, which then blaze with heat and light.
  • The energy from these newborn stars blasts out into nearby space, illuminating the shrouds of material they were born in as well as ionizing them with shockwaves of radiation.
  • These ionized ‘shock fronts’ also release light in wavelengths corresponding to the elements within the clouds, and can also eventually lead to the formation of yet more stars — a continuous cycle of star birth on a galactic time scale.

SOURCES:  Space clouds glitter where stars are born (ABC Science)  and Discovery’s post of the same name

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    A CONTINUOUS CYCLE OF STAR BIRTH ON A GALACTIC TIME SCALE SOURCES: Space clouds glitter where stars are born (ABC...
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