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Starts With A Bang

The Closest New Stars To Earth Are In A Place You’ve Never Looked

How the darkest places on the sky unexpectedly house the closest new stars.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” -Albert Camus

Most new stars in our galaxy form in massive regions like the Orion Nebula, some 1500 light-years away.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team.

But many more locations exist where star formation is more subtle: in low-mass molecular clouds.

Image credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2. Note the regions devoid of stars; these indicate “dark nebulae.”

Although the northern hemisphere skies are devoid of close ones, there are a slew of dark nebulae littering the southern skies.

Image credit: Axel Mellinger’s Milky Way Panorama 2.0.

The Chamaeleon and Corona Australis molecular clouds are closest at ~500 light years, while just under 600 light years distant, the Lupus clouds lie in the constellation of the wolf.

Image credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2; Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin.

In visible light, these clouds appear predominantly as dark patches, obscuring and reddening the light of background stars.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA, from NASA’s WISE mission.

In the infrared, though, the gas glows brilliantly as it forms new stars inside.

Image credit: ESO/F. Comeron.

Combined visible and infrared measurements, as taken from ESO’s La Silla Observatory, reveal where the hottest, newest stars have begun to come alive.

Image credit: ESO/F. Comeron.

The radiation and stellar winds from these hot, pre-main-sequence stars blow away cloud Lupus III, revealing the full splendor of the newborn stars, while other, darker regions, continue to grow and form stellar infants.

As these clouds evaporate, hundreds of low-mass stars will be revealed: the next generation populating our galaxy.

Images credit: ESO/F. Comeron.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object in visuals, images, video and no more than 200 words.

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