Astronomy Picture of the Day

Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud

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Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud


Cosmic dust clouds and embedded newborn stars glow
at infrared wavelengths
in this tantalizing false-color view from the
Spitzer Space Telescope.

Pictured is
of one of the closest star forming regions, part
of the Rho Ophiuchi
cloud complex some 400 light-years distant
near the southern edge of the

The view spans about 5 light-years at that estimated distance.

After forming along a
large cloud of cold molecular
hydrogen gas, newborn stars heat the surrounding
dust to produce the infrared glow.

An exploration
of the region in penetrating infrared light has detected
some 300 emerging and newly formed stars whose average age
is estimated to be a mere 300,000 years -- extremely young
compared to the
Sun's age
of 5 billion years.

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