Bright Lights Pierce the Mist
click to enlarge
|Courtesy ofNASA/JPL-Caltech/ 2MASS/SSI/University of Wisconsin
Two extremely bright stars illuminate a greenish mist in this image from the Spitzer Space Telescope’s “GLIMPSE360” survey. This mist is comprised of hydrogen and carbon compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which also are found here on Earth in sooty vehicle exhaust and on charred grills.
In space, PAHs form in the dark clouds that give rise to stars. These molecules provide astronomers a way to visualize the peripheries of gas clouds and study their structures in great detail. They are not actually green; but are color coded in these images to allow scientists see their glow in infrared.
This image is a combination of data from Spitzer and the Two-Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS). The Spitzer data was taken after Spitzer’s liquid coolant ran dry in May 2009, marking the beginning of its “warm” mission.