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|Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech|
This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America Nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America. However, in this new infrared view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the continent disappears.
Where did the continent go? The reason you don’t see it in Spitzer’s view is due, in part, to the fact that infrared light can penetrate dust, whereas visible light cannot. Dusty, dark clouds in the visible image become transparent in Spitzer’s view. In addition, Spitzer’s infrared detectors pick up the glow of dusty cocoons enveloping baby stars.
Clusters of young stars (about one million years old) can be found throughout the image. Slightly older but still very young stars (about three to five million years) also are liberally scattered across the complex. Some areas of this nebula are still very thick with dust and appear dark even in Spitzer’s view; they are likely to be the youngest stars in the complex (less than a million years old).