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Space Photos of the Week: Inside the Nebulae Where Stars Are Born

As stars die, more take their place. The Carina Nebula, seen here from a distance, is one star-forming region that helps replenish the cosmos. Young stars at the center emit large amounts of radiation, illuminating their surroundings, while long, dark tendrils of gas thread around the nebula adding a sort of contrast. In the next image, we’ll have a closer look.

Planetary nebula NGC 391 is watching us, or so it seems. At the center of the eye-shaped cloud, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, is a dying red giant, shooting its last remnants into space. Protrusions on the left and right are believed to be jets of gas, streaming out at speeds of up to 217,500 miles per hour.

A nearby stellar nursery is called Rho Ophiuchi, nicknamed Rho Oph by astronomers. In space, proximity’s always relative, and this colorful cloud of gas and dust is some 410 light years away. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, which sees space in infrared, we can peer through Rho Oph’s dust and haze to revel in the visual splendor of newborn stars.

Here’s a section of the Carina Nebula up close and personal, captured by the European Southern Observatory during its Digitized Sky Survey, which recorded the entire sky over the past 30 years. In focus within Carina are the gorgeous clouds of gas and stars of Eta Carinae, the most luminous stellar system within 10,000 light years of Earth.

How’s the weather on Jupiter? Always spectacular! In mid-July, the space probe Juno captured images of the planet’s atmosphere at varying altitudes as the spacecraft orbited over the poles. The color-enhanced images accentuate the swirls and zigzagging storms. The second image features a white “anticyclone,” rotating clockwise, and the center image offers a clear view of the Little Red Spot in the south.


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