Visible in the featured picture is the end of a huge gas and dust pillar […] punctuated by a smaller pillar pointing up and an unusual jet pointing to the left. Many of the dots are newly formed low-mass stars. A star near the small pillar’s end is slowly being stripped of its accreting gas by radiation from a tremendously brighter star situated off the top of the image. The jet extends nearly a light-year and would not be visible without external illumination. As gas and dust evaporate from the pillars, the hidden stellar source of this jet will likely be uncovered, possibly over the next 20,000 years.
Behold: the centre of NGC 6514, aka, Messier 20, aka the Trifid nebula. To wit:
Three prominent dust lanes that give the Trifid its name all come together. Mountains of opaque dust appear near the bottom, while other dark filaments of dust are visible threaded throughout the nebula. A single massive star visible near the center causes much of the Trifid’s glow. The Trifid, cataloged as M20, is only about 300,000 years old, making it among the youngest emission nebulas known. The star forming nebula lies about 9,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius). The region pictured here spans about 10 light years. The featured image is a composite with luminance taken from an image by the 8.2-m ground-based Subaru Telescope, detail provided by the 2.4-m orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, color data provided by Martin Pugh and image assembly and processing provided by Robert Gendler.
Previously: Spitzer’s Trifid
As its name suggests, visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes. But this penetrating infrared image reveals the Trifid’s filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. The spectacular false-colour view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the infrared image data to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery. Launched in 2003, Spitzer explored the infrared Universe from an Earth-trailing solar orbit until its science operations were brought to a close earlier this year, on January 30.