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The Galaxy's Biggest Valentine

13 Feb 2012, 16:27 UTC
The Galaxy's Biggest Valentine Rosette Nebula by Adam Block and Tim Puckett
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." -William Shakespeare
Up in the night sky, just a few degrees away from Orion, one of the most identifiable constellations in the winter sky, lies a cluster of newly formed stars.

(Image credit: Stellarium. As always, click on all images for the highest-res version available.)
5,000 light years away, this cluster of stars is loaded with the full gamut of stellar colors, from blue to white to red, and is easily visible through any astronomical tool from simple hand-held binoculars to pretty much any type of telescope. It's one of the brightest, most prominent star clusters in the entire night sky not to make it into the first astronomical catalog of interesting night sky objects.

(Image credit: Nigel Metcalfe.)
But young star clusters like this aren't all that rare, even within our own galaxy. But this one houses a surprise. With either extremely dark skies, a large, powerful, and low-magnification telescope, or a very long-exposure astrophotography project, you can see something extraordinary engulfing this star cluster.

(Image credit: Adam Block and Tim Puckett.)
This dim, red glow is actually evidence of incredibly ...

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