Space image of the day: swirling palette of star-forming clouds

Here’s a beautiful new image just released today from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer, or WISE: the busy star-forming complex called Rho Ophiuch, which is one of the closest star-forming complexes to Earth. More about the image:

The amazing variety of different colors seen in this image represent different wavelengths of infrared light. The bright white nebula in the center of the image is glowing due to heating from nearby stars, resulting in what is called an emission nebula. The same is true for most of the multi-hued gas prevalent throughout the entire image, including the bluish bow-shaped feature near the bottom right. The bright red area in the bottom right is light from the star in the center – Sigma Scorpii – that is reflected off of the dust surrounding it, creating what is called a reflection nebula. And the much darker areas scattered throughout the image are pockets of cool dense gas that block out the background light, resulting in absorption (or ‘dark’) nebulae. WISE’s longer wavelength detectors can typically see through dark nebulae, but these are exceptionally opaque.

JPL manages and
operates the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal
investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was
competitively selected under NASA’s Explorers Program managed
by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science
instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan,
Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace &
Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data
processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis
Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.