Check Out the Chaotic New Photo of a Stellar Nursery
Space is a wonderfully beautiful thing; ripe not only with billions upon billions of twinkling lights, but also chaotic, destructive, explosive forces that regularly tear star systems apart and explode into newer celestial displays of power.
As an example: the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released a brand new photo of a distant stellar nursery, where young stars are born and grow over the course of millions of years. As you can expect from a photo of burning spheres of super-hot gas and clouds of radioactive debris, it's nothing short of awe-inspiring, and also makes for a great desktop background:
The OmegaCAM camera on ESO's VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Credit: @ESO /M. Kornmesser https://t.co/vtRKJKEwTF pic.twitter.com/ja22NOldCC— ESO (@ESO) December 13, 2017
The nursery in the photo (taken by the ESO OmegaCAM) is named Sharpless 29, according to a press release, and exists within the Sagittarius constellation 5,500 light years away. The stars in the nursery are generally fairly young, burn very bright, and then explode into a chaotic mess as the cycle begins again, like a phoenix rising from its own ashes.
Despite looking like a random collection of sugar strands stretched across a particularly dark piece of candy floss (or else the brain of a particularly angry jellyfish that's suffering through a snowstorm), this photo contains a good look at some of the more explosive events within the life-cycle of a star.
The big pink clouds are space dust and gas, which give birth to stars as clumps of debris start sticking together in lumps - these nebulae eventually grow larger and larger as gravity pulls more matter into their wake, exploding as they form fully-fledged stars which have a lot of pent-up energy to shed. During this period of a star's lifespan, things are fairly unstable.
The stars belch out bursts of solar radiation and other debris (which can be seen in the photo as blue clouds) as they swirl around angrily. Some of these stars will very quickly collapse, eating themselves in a process that takes only a few million years, before releasing all of their energy as the process starts all over and the stars' corpse dust then forms back into new glowing spheres.
Perhaps one of the most unnerving and curious parts of the photo are the black squiggles that almost look like veins - these, more than anything, are what make the photo look like an abstract interpretation of a human brain.
The squiggles are caused by particularly thick clouds of debris and dust, which actually manage to block the light from the stellar nursery entirely. Intergalactic flotsam of this size and density is particularly interesting to astronomers, especially because these squiggles are simply too dark to be properly examined from our current vantage point.
As beautiful as this all is, viewing it from a distance is probably for the best. Nobody would want to get too close to the explosive storm of energy that's being unleashed in the Sharpless 29 nursery.