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Cosmic Epic Unfolds in Infrared

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This majestic view, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, tells an untold story of life and death in the Eagle Nebula, an industrious star-making factory located 7,000 light-years away in the Serpens Constellation. The image shows the region's entire network of turbulent clouds and newborn stars in infrared light.

But it is the color red that speaks of the drama taking place in this region. Red represents hotter dust thought to have been warmed by the explosion of a massive star about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago. Since light from the Eagle Nebula takes 7,000 years to reach us, this supernova explosion would have appeared as an oddly bright star in our skies about 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.

According to astronomers' estimations, the explosion's blast wave would have spread outward and toppled the three pillars about 6,000 years ago (which means we wouldn't witness the destruction for another 1,000 years or so). The blast wave would have crumbled the mighty towers, exposing newborn stars that were buried inside, and triggering the birth of new ones.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Institut d'Astrophysique Spatia

 

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This stunning false-color picture shows off the many sides of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, which is made up of images taken by three of NASA's Great Observatories, using three different wavebands of light. Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red; visible data from the Hubble Space Telescope are yellow; and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are green and blue.

Located 10,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Cassiopeia, Cassiopeia A is the remnant of a once massive star that died in a violent supernova explosion 325 years ago. It consists of a dead star, called a neutron star, and a surrounding shell of material that was blasted off as the star died. The neutron star can be seen in the Chandra data as a sharp turquoise dot in the center of the shimmering shell.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO

 

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