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Herschel captures the chaotic beauty of newborn stars

The European Space Agency's Herschel Observatory has captured snapshot of space that looks like an impressionist painting.

Herschel's infrared instruments reveal structural complexity within the nebula that is invisible in optical light.

ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/Hi-GAL Project

The birth of stars is a messy, chaotic, wonderful affair. It can also tell us a lot about the universe around us, about how it formed, and how it might evolve in the future. As part of its efforts to probe stellar nurseries, The European Space Agency has released a new photo showing a mesmerizingly turbulent region of the sky.

Located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation of Vulpeca, the region known as Vulpecula OB1 is home to some of the biggest stars in our galaxy. Fed by the material around it, the region is giving birth to O- and B-type stars, supermassive stars that burn very hot and very bright, and live for only a very short time before going supernova, sending shockwaves through the nebula and triggering new star births.

This image was taken by the Herschel Observatory in five different infrared wavelengths, which reveals a web of very cold material that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The radiation emitted by the stars pushes this material, compressing it until it collapses into new stars too.