Hubble Snaps Stunning Image of Nearby Star-Forming Region

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Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured this vivid image of IRAS 16562-3959, a beautiful star-forming region in the constellation of Scorpius.

This Hubble image shows IRAS 16562-3959, a star-forming region some 5,900 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / R. Fedriani / J. Tan.

IRAS 16562-3959, also known as 2MASX J16594225-4003451, resides at a distance of 5,900 light-years in the constellation of Scorpius.

“At the center of the image, IRAS 16562-3959 is thought to host a massive star — about 30 times the mass of our Sun — that is still in the process of forming,” members of the Hubble team said in a statement.

“At the near-infrared wavelengths to which Hubble is sensitive, the central region appears dark because there is so much obscuring dust in the way.”

“However near-infrared light leaks out mainly on two sides — upper left and lower right — where a powerful jet from the massive protostar has cleared away the dust.”

“Multi-wavelength images including this incredible Hubble scene will help us gain a better understanding of how the most massive, brightest stars in our Milky Way Galaxy are born.”

The new image of IRAS 16562-3959 was made from separate exposures taken in the near-infrared region of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC 3).

Four filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter.

“Filters are thin slivers of highly specialized material that only allow very specific wavelengths of light through,” the astronomers explained.

“They can be slid in front of the part of the telescope that is sensitive to light, letting us control which wavelengths of light the telescope collects with each observation.”

“This is useful not only for specific scientific research, but also for the creation of images like this one.”

“Raw telescope observations are always monochrome, regardless of which filter was used,” they added.

“However, specially trained artists and image specialists can select colors that match the wavelength range covered by individual filters.”

“Or, in the case where a direct match is not possible — such as for the data used in this image, which are all in the infrared regime, which human eyes are not sensitive to — the artist can select a color that sensibly represents what is taking place.”

“For example, they might assign bluer colors to shorter wavelengths and redder colors to longer wavelengths, as is the case in the visible light range.”

“Then, data from multiple filters can be combined to build up a multi-color image, that both looks beautiful and has scientific meaning.”

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