<p>Spring flowers are blooming—even in space. This recently released picture shows NGC 7023, also called the Iris nebula for its floral appearance, as seen from <a href="http://www.noao.edu/kpno/">Kitt Peak National Observatory</a> in Arizona.</p><p>The cosmic flower is actually what's known as a reflection nebula. The interstellar cloud of dust and gas glows not because its material is being heated, but because it's reflecting light from nearby stars.</p><p>For instance, the bright glow in the middle of the nebula comes from a hot, massive star that gives off blue light, which then gets scattered by dust, lending the nebula its distinctive color.</p>

Blooming Iris

Spring flowers are blooming—even in space. This recently released picture shows NGC 7023, also called the Iris nebula for its floral appearance, as seen from Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

The cosmic flower is actually what's known as a reflection nebula. The interstellar cloud of dust and gas glows not because its material is being heated, but because it's reflecting light from nearby stars.

For instance, the bright glow in the middle of the nebula comes from a hot, massive star that gives off blue light, which then gets scattered by dust, lending the nebula its distinctive color.

Image courtesy T. A. Rector/UAA, H. Schweiker/WIYN, and NOAO/NSF

Space Pictures This Week: Cosmic Flower, Inside-Out Star

An "iris" blooms among the stars, auroras paint Norway, a supernova gets mapped, and more in the week's best space pictures.

Read This Next

What drives elephant poaching? It’s not greed
How old are you, really? The answer is written on your face.
The rise of vegan safaris

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet