NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of two Christmas-themed nebulae in deep space Thursday.
The vibrant red and greenish colors are caused by intense radiation from stars in the center of the nebula heating hydrogen so that it glows. The pair of gaseous nebulas were first observed by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1834 and are situated in such a way that they appear to be one.
The nebulas, dubbed NGC 248, are about 60 light-years long and 20 light-years wide. The color and luminosity of NGC 248 is due to the nebulas’ heavy hydrogen content, and the fact that they have young, brilliant stars at the center. They are located roughly 200,000 light years away from Earth, which is relatively close by intergalactic standards.
NASA scientists were observing the nebulas to understand the history of how stars form.
“It is important for understanding the history of our own galaxy, too,” Dr. Karin Sandstrom, a scientist at the University of California who was NASA’s principal investigator on the nebula, wrote in a press statement.“Dust is a really critical part of how a galaxy works, how it forms stars.”
The nebulas allow researchers to examine how stars formed in our galaxy at a time when the amount of heavy elements wer much lower than they are now.
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