Astronomy Picture of the Day

Stars Forming in Serpens

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Stars Forming in Serpens


Stars are forming in a dense
molecular cloud a mere 1,000 light-years
away in the constellation
Serpens Cauda
(The Serpent's Tail).

At that estimated distance, this sharp, near-infrared close-up of the
active Serpens star-forming region spans about 2
or just over half a light-year.

Though such
observations can be made by mountain-top
telescopes with specialized detectors, near-infrared
light has too long a wavelength to be visible to the eye.

This view was recorded with a sensitive camera,
(High Acuity, Wide field K-band Imaging), just commissioned at the
Paranal Observatory in Chile.

to illustrate HAWK-I's impressive capabilities,
the tantalizing image highlights reddish young stars
and protostars, likely up to a few million years old,
emerging from the
nebular gas and dust.

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