Cathy Weselby / Nicholas A. Veronico
The left and center panels of the three-image comparison have the same scale and orientation as the
The image in the left panel, made at wavelengths visible to the human eye, shows dense clouds of interstellar dust blocking our view into parts of the star forming region, plus the rosy glow of hydrogen gas excited by radiation from the young stars just above the center.
In the center panel, the near-infrared image penetrates some of the dust and reveals numerous stars at various stages of formation, embedded inside the clouds.
For example, the dense dust cloud at upper left is completely opaque in the visible-light image, partly transparent in the near-infrared image, and is seen shining with its own heat radiation in the
mid-infrared image. The hot stars of the Trapezium cluster are seen just above the centers of the visible-light and near-infrared images, but they are almost undetectable in the SOFIA image. SOFIA
At upper right, the dust-embedded cluster of high-luminosity stars that is the most prominent feature in the
mid-infrared image is less apparent in the near-infrared image and is completely hidden in the visible-light image. SOFIA
For more information about
, visit http://www.nasa.gov/sofia and http://www.dlr.de/en/sofia. SOFIA
For information about
's science mission, visit http://www.sofia.usra.edu and http://www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html. SOFIA
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