Stars are being mined in our backyard.
That may be a bit of a stretch for something that's 6,400 light years away, but given the infinite reaches of outer space, the star factory that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured in action is relatively nearby.
To celebrate Hubble's 24th anniversary, the space agency today released a series of stunning images of the "churning" star factory, known as NGC 2174, which was found inside the Monkey Head Nebula. And while these pictures are awe-inspiring, NASA said they are just a taste of what it expects to find when it processes more images of NCG 2174 taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The star factory is generating huge new stars close to the center of the Monkey Head Nebula, each of which are "blasting away at dust" in the nebula, NASA said in a release. The UV light the stars emit helps form giant pillars from the dust.
The Monkey Head Nebula is largely hydrogen gas, which is ionized by the UV radiation. As that radiation warms the nebula's dust, the particles heat up and start glowing at infrared wavelengths, NASA explained.