NASA Spitzer Telescope Reveals Cosmic 'Bubbles' Trapping Thousands Of Newborn Stars
The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed dozens of massive cosmic "bubbles" in the Eagle constellation, each one trapping hundreds to thousands of stars according to the latest reports from CNN.
NASA JPL issued a press release highlighting what we know so far. These bubbles lie in the Eagle constellation within the Milky Way galaxy, and each bubble is estimated to measure 10-30 light-years across (it's difficult to measure with any precision because objects that are farther way, of course, appear to be smaller). They are buoyed by stellar winds shearing off newborn stars which pushes cosmic debris outward to create these distinct spherical shapes. You can see them graphed out in the GIF below:
(GIF credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The brilliant colors correspond to various infrared wavelengths: stars emit a blue light on this spectrum, while green represents dust and hydrocarbons. Warm dust appears red.
Indicated in squares you can also see four of what are called "bow shocks" – the shockwave that happens when stellar dust and cosmic debris reach supersonic speeds. They aren't only found in deep space, either: solar winds generate bow shocks when they collide with Earth's magnetosphere.
These images were discovered in partnership with Zooniverse.org in a "people-powered research" movement called The Milky Way Project, where thousands of citizen scientists combed through Spitzer photos in search of these cosmic bubbles. In total, they identified 2,600 bubbles and 599 bow shocks.
The Spitzer Space Telescope is one of NASA's four Great Observatories along with Hubble, the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Each one of them is built to image deep space in a different light. Spitzer picks up on infrared radiation; since its launch in 2003, the telescope has sent back scores of breath-taking space images, looking deep into the heart of galaxies and nebulae to render them in vivid color.
You can read the citizen science report in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society here.