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The colors of starbirth

A stunning “cosmic watercolor” features the interplay of light from hot young stars reflecting off clouds of gas and dust, 420 light-years from Earth.

This view of the region around the central star R Coronae Australis comes from the Wide Field Imager on the European Southern Observatory's MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope in Chile. The image spans a section of sky about as wide as the full moon, in the constellation Corona Australis (the Southern Crown). Hot young stars cast a bluish light that is reflected or re-emitted by the clouds of the star-forming nebula.

The dark patch in the lower left corner of the picture is actually a dense lane of interstellar dust. The dust completely obscures the stars within, when seen in visible wavelengths. But if the telescope were looking in the longer-wavelength infrared part of the spectrum, it would have spotted even more hidden gems. Here's a video that zooms in on the scene, and here's a near-infrared view of the region from the 2MASS sky survey.