A Natal Microcosm
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A Natal Microcosm

May 13, 2004
In the quest to better understand the birth of stars and the formation of new worlds, astronomers have used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to examine the massive stars contained in a cloudy region called Sharpless 140. This cloud is a fascinating microcosm of a star-forming region since it exhibits, within a relatively small area, all of the classic manifestations of stellar birth. Sharpless 140 lies almost 3000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cepheus. At its heart is a cluster of three deeply embedded young stars, which are each several thousand times brighter than the Sun. Though they are strikingly visible in this image from Spitzer's infrared array camera, they are completely obscured in visible light, buried within the core of the surrounding dust cloud.

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