Seeing Stars, With a Space Scope

The European Space Agency's Herschel Space Telescope has the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. Here are the best images it has captured so far. 


    Hole in Space?

    NGC 1999 is the green tinged cloud towards the top of the image. The dark spot to the right was thought to be a cloud of dense dust and gas until Herschel looked at it. It is in fact a hole that has been blown in the side of NGC 1999 by the jets and winds of gas from the young stellar objects in this region of space.
    ESA and the SPIRE & PACS consortium

    Dark Cloud, Southern Cross

    The swirling patterns of gas in this image came as a complete surprise to astronomers. They are located thousands of light years away from Earth in the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross. Crux is such a prominent constellation in the southern sky that it features on the flags of seven countries, including Australia and New Zealand.
    ESA and the SPIRE & PACS consortium

    Baby Stars

    A sweeping arc of warm dust marks the boundary between stars that have formed and power the Rosette Nebula, and stars that are still forming in the surrounding Rosette cloud. This Herschel image uses infrared light to reveal embedded stars up to 10 times the mass of our Sun busily forming inside dusty cocoons.
    ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, Frédérique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/IRFU - CNRS/INSU - Uni. Paris Diderot, HOBYS Key Programme Consortia


    It’s a Galactic bubble with a large surprise. How large? At least 8 times the mass of the Sun. Nestled in the shell around this large bubble is an embryonic star that looks set to turn into one of the brightest stars in the Galaxy.
    ESA / PACS & SPIRE Consortium, Dr. Annie Zavagno, LAM, HOBYS Key Programme Consortia

    The Whirlpool Galaxy

    The spectacular spiral galaxy M51 in its glorious infrared colors. Two huge waves of star formation encircle its central nucleus, making beautiful spiral arms. Each one shines brightly with its dust being warmed by the young stars. The Whirlpool Galaxy is 23 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. 
    ESA and the PACS consortium


    The discovery of a previously unseen population of galaxies and the first measurements of galaxies in the almost unexplored far-infrared domain are among the first exciting scientific results achieved by Herschel's PACS and SPIRE instruments. These findings confirm the extraordinary capabilities of ESA's new infrared space observatory to investigate the formation and evolution of galaxies. Here, deep, deep space is finally captured by the SPIRE camera.
    ESA/PACS Consortium/PEP Key Programme Consortium


    The constellation of Vulpecula reveals the entire assembly line of newborn stars. The diffuse glow reveals the widespread cold reservoir of raw material which our Galaxy has in stock for the production of new stars. Large-scale turbulence possibly due to giant colliding Galactic flows causes this material to condense into the web of filaments that we see throughout the image, and that will act as "incubators" where the material becomes colder and denser.
    ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, Sergio Molinari, Hi-GAL Project

    The Dark Heart of the Eagle

    Seven hundred newly forming stars are estimated to be crowded into these colorful filaments of dust, part of a mysterious ring of stars called Gould’s Belt. This image shows a dark cloud 1,000 light years away in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. It covers an area 65 light years across and is so shrouded in dust that no previous infrared satellite has been able to see into it. 
    ESA and the SPIRE & PACS consortia, Ph. André (CEA Saclay) for the Gould’s Belt Key Programme Consortia


    The outstanding end-products of the stellar assembly line. At the center and at the left of the image the two massive star forming regions G29.9 and W43 are clearly visible. These two mini-starbursts are forming hundreds and hundreds of stars of all sizes: from those similar to our Sun, to monsters several tens of times heavier than our Sun.
    ESA / PACS & SPIRE Consortium, Sergio Molinari, Hi-GAL Project
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