A colony of hot, young stars is stirring up the cosmic scene in this new picture from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The image shows the Orion nebula, a happening place where stars are born. The young stars dip and peak in brightness due to a variety of reasons. Shifting cold and hot spots on the stars' surfaces cause brightness levels to change, in addition to surrounding disks of lumpy planet-forming material, which can obstruct starlight. Spitzer is keeping tabs on the young stars, providing data on their changing ways.
The hottest stars in the region, called the Trapezium cluster, are bright spots at center right. Radiation and winds from those stars has sculpted and blown away surrounding dust. The densest parts of the cloud appear dark at center left.
This image was taken after Spitzer's liquid coolant ran dry in May 2009, marking the beginning of its "warm" mission. Light from the telescope's remaining infrared channels has been color-coded: 3.6-micron light is blue and 4.5-micron light is orange.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech› Full resolution jpeg (3.9 Mb)