The spectacular celestial landscape around the star-forming region Gum 15. ( ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/Davide De Martin)
The spectacular celestial landscape around the star-forming region Gum 15. ( ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/Davide De Martin)

Newborn Stars Sculpt a Treacherous Celestial Landscape

Every now and then, it’s good to take a moment and share a gorgeous space photo.

The glowing pink tuft in the center of this ESO image is the star-forming region Gum 15, located 3,000 light-years away in the constellation Vela. From afar, the colorful puff appears riven with dark voids that give it an almost organic appearance, like a chunk of tissue covered with dark blood vessels. (That dark fork is actually a thick patch of dust, though.)

Scientists estimate that thousands of stars are born in Gum 15 over the span of a few million years, which is more or less like a cosmic sigh.

Though beautiful, Gum 15 is a violent, blustery place, a stellar nursery shaped by wild young stars spewing radiation. Eventually, these young stars will age, explode and die. But before that, their energy and winds will continue to cleave the gentle clouds of their nursery and shave electrons from the surrounding hydrogen atoms. When those atoms recapture their lost electrons, they glow a characteristic red color – which is why Gum 15 shines as it does.

In the lower left is the star cluster NGC 2671, and in the lower right, you can see some of the tangled filaments of the Vela supernova remnant.

This concludes our gratuitous space photo presentation.