Click on the image for larger version
This image was compiled using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) and the Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS) during Spitzer's "cold" mission, before the spacecraft's liquid helium coolant ran out in 2009. The colors correspond with IRAC wavelengths of 3.6 microns (blue), 4.5 microns (cyan) and 8 microns (green), and 24 microns (red) from the MIPS instrument.
The green-and-orange delta filling most of this image is a nebula, or a cloud of gas and dust. This region formed from a much larger cloud of gas and dust that has been carved away by radiation from stars.
The bright region at the tip of the nebula is dust that has been heated by the stars' radiation, which creates the surrounding red glow. The white color is the combination of four colors (blue, green, orange and red), each representing a different wavelength of infrared light, which is invisible to human eyes.
The massive stars illuminating this region belong to a star cluster that extends above the white spot.
On the left side of this image, a dark filament runs horizontally through the green cloud. A smattering of baby stars (the red and yellow dots) appear inside it. Known as Cepheus C, the area is a particularly dense concentration of gas and dust where infant stars form. This region is called Cepheus C because it lies in the constellation Cepheus, which can be found near the constellation Cassiopeia. Cepheus-C is about 6 light-years long, and lies about 40 light-years from the bright spot at the tip of the nebula.
The small, red hourglass shape just below Cepheus C is V374 Ceph. Astronomers studying this massive star have speculated that it might be surrounded by a nearly edge-on disk of dark, dusty material. The dark cones extending to the right and left of the star are a shadow of that disk.
The smaller nebula on the right side of the image includes a blue star crowned by a small, red arc of light. This "runaway star" is plowing through the gas and dust at a rapid clip, creating a shock wave or "bow shock" in front of itself.
Some features identified in the annotated image are more visible in the IRAC data alone, found here.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
For more information on Spitzer, visit: