The European Space Agency's Herschel telescope has reached deep into a previously invisible stellar incubator 1,000 light years away, capturing this image of 700 new stars forming from space dust and gas. Taken with Hershel's Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and its Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE), the image covers an area 65 light years across that is so shrouded in cosmic dust that no previous infrared telescope could see inside.
By Christopher MimsPosted 01.23.2009 at 3:08 pm 35 Comments
Texas-size asteroids make for exciting summer blockbusters, but when it comes to long-term damage, they're not the most menacing threat out there. Lurking at the edge of our galaxy are giant molecular dust clouds -- agglomerations of hydrogen gas, small organic molecules and minerals -- roughly 150 light-years across. If our solar system hit one, it would take 100,000 years to pop out on the other side.
Ingredients for a solar system: take gas and space dust, stir until clumpy, let cool for a few billion years. Scientists believe the nine planets formed this way, and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the remaining bits that weren't fully cooked. NASA will check it out in 2006, when it sends the Dawn spacecraft up to orbit the belt's two largest asteroids, or "minor planets": Ceres, which may have water beneath its surface, and the volcanic Vesta.