TIME astronomy

Brilliant Star Clusters in the Flame Nebula Hold the Mysteries of Star Formation

This composite image released by NASA on May 7, 2014 shows NGC 2024, which is found in the center of the so-called Flame Nebula about 1,400 light years from Earth.
This composite image released by NASA on May 7, 2014 shows NGC 2024, which is found in the center of the so-called Flame Nebula about 1,400 light years from Earth. In this image, X-rays from Chandra are seen as purple, while infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red, green, and blue. X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/K.Getman, E.Feigelson, M.Kuhn & the MYStIX team; Infrared:NASA/JPL-Caltech

Old stars are actually on the outskirts of clouds like this one, while the babies stay in the middle

How are stars formed? Astronomers get to spend years looking at beautiful star clusters like this one to try to find out.

Scientists are rethinking notions about how giant clouds of gas, dust and stars are formed, after observing two stunning star clusters, NGC 2024 and the Orion Nebula Cluster, where many new stars are forming. Using infrared telescopes and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found that the oldest stars in clusters are on the outside, rather than in the middle, as earlier models indicated. That could upend theories about how star clusters coalesce and behave, as well as models of how stars are formed.

The star cluster pictured here is the NGC 2024 in the so-called Flame Nebula, about 1,400 light years from Earth. Just take a second to think about all the stars being born in there.

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