Friday, May 11, 2007

Oooh, Pretty!!

I just had to post this gorgeous photo from NASA's Image Of The Day Gallery, of The Snowflake Cluster and the Cone Nebula:

Here's NASA's caption:

Strange shapes and textures can be found in the neighborhood of the Cone Nebula. These patterns result from the tumultuous unrest that accompanies the formation of the open cluster of stars known as NGC 2264, the Snowflake Cluster. To better understand this process, a detailed image of this region was taken in two colors of infrared light by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope.

Bright stars from the Snowflake Cluster dot the field. These stars soon heat up and destroy the gas and dust mountains in which they formed. One such dust mountain is the famous Cone Nebula, visible in the above image on the left, pointing toward a bright star near the center of the field. The entire NGC 2264 region is located about 2,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).

I wasn't content to just tell you about the pretty picture this time, and send you off with a link and a nod to go there if you were in the mood. I just had to show you. (Although, I have to say, the image at the NASA site is better resolution, and if you click on the link to the full resolution 3.03 Mb picture, you find that this one has been cropped. The bigger photo is even more spectacular, if you ask me.) Forgive me if posting the picture made the page a little slower than usual, but wasn't it worth it? Since right now none of us get to head off into space to see such sights for ourselves, all we can do is take the opportunities afforded us to enjoy the beautiful things in the universe vicariously, through such blessings of technology as the Spitzer Space Telescope. Fortunately, since NASA is taxpayer funded, its images are ours to enjoy. What a happy thing to think about when we're all paying our share to Uncle Sam.

Hat tip: Futurismic