Stellar 'nursery' seen in new image

July 11, 2012 at 4:22 PM
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PARIS, July 11 (UPI) -- Observations of a massive star "nursery" just 2,300 light-years from the Earth are helping astronomers study the birth of stars, the European Space Agency says.

The agency has released an image of the Vela C stellar nursery, a region where young high- and low-mass stars have heated dense clumps of gas and dust and where new generations of stars may be born.

The ESA's Herschel space observatory captured the image, a release from agency headquarters in Paris reported.

At the center of the image is a delicate blue and yellow butterfly shape that astronomers said stands out because the region's dust has been heated by a cluster of very hot, massive stars strung out along the butterfly's "body."

These stars will "live fast and die young" by burning brightly for only a short time in cosmic terms, the astronomers said.

Those with more than eight times the mass of our own Sun will explode as supernovas within 10 million years of forming, they said.

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