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Spider nebula glows green in stunning space image

The Spider nebula and its ethereal tendrils star in a new image from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Space is full of creepy-crawlies and most of them are in the form of nebulae. There's the Black Widow Nebula, the Medusa Nebula, the Bug Nebula and the Ant Nebula. Now there's a fantastical image of a nebula known simply as the Spider.

The image shows the nebula glowing green like it just stepped out of a special-effects shot for "Ghostbusters." It takes a little imagination to see the arachnid shape, but you can imagine the cloudy tendrils extending out like legs.

The Spider lives in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. A small nebula called NGC 1931 sits nearby. It has the nickname "the Fly." Put the two together and you get space versions of the subjects of the classic poem. Fortunately, the Spider nebula has no intentions of eating the Fly.

The Spider sits patiently in space.


The image comes courtesy of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and some Earth-bound image processing. For humans to see what Spitzer can see in infrared, the image is processed by assigning colors to different wavelengths of light. The Spitzer Space Telescope obtained the data used to make this eye-catching image in 2009, and NASA released the new version Thursday.

The Spider is an active region of star formation. Its official, less evocative name is IC 417. The leggy-looking nebula is located about 10,000 light-years from Earth.

Spitzer launched in 2003 and is still operational. Its primary mission is to detect infrared radiation and see far beyond what regular optical telescopes are capable of. NASA says it can observe "dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies and newly forming planetary systems."