Jack-o’-lantern Nebula grimaces on the edge of the Milky Way

Posted at 9:39 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 21:39:38-04

(CNN) — The newest image from the Spitzer Space Telescope looks like a cosmic pumpkin carved up just in time for Halloween. Researchers have dubbed this region on the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way, as the “Jack-o’-lantern Nebula,” according to NASA.

Fittingly, this space pumpkin was carved up by a star. The O-type star is massive, weighing in between 15 to 20 times heavier than our sun.

In the nebula, the star’s radiation pushed dust and gas outward, creating gaps that look like a ghoulish pumpkin carving.

The star acts like the light illuminating the jack-o’-lantern and was spotted by the Spitzer Space Telescope, which detects light in infrared. In the case of this image, it contains three different wavelengths of infrared light.

The green and red colors in the image are due to the different temperatures of the dust captured by Spitzer. The blending of these two lights creates yellow. The stars are signified as blue and the bright white spot is the star.

In a higher-contrast image, however, the orange and green create an orange tone perfect for Halloween.

The images are part of a larger study of the Milky Way’s outer region, where clouds of gas and dust are colder and contain less heavy elements. Researchers have analyzed star formation in this region to determine how star and planet formation compares with other regions of the Milky Way.

In the past, Spitzer has peered into the cosmos and captured regions hidden from our view, such as the centers of galaxies and dusty areas where stars are born and planetary systems form.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is in NASA’s Great Observatories family. Spitzer detects infrared light, while the Hubble Space Telescope captures visible and UV light; the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was designed for gamma rays; and the Chandra X-ray Observatory sees X-rays.

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Originally Published: 30 OCT 19 19:05 ET