Picture of the Day: A Nebula Loses Its Characteristic Shape

northamericannebula.jpg

This is an image of the North America Nebula, which gets its name because it looks so much like the continent North America. No? That's because this image, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, captures the nebula's infrared light. Visible light cannot penetrate dust clouds, which carve out an outline that looks similar to the continent. Below, a side-by-side comparison of the nebula's appearance in visible and infrared light.

800px-North_America_Nebula_Disappears.jpg

Images: 1. NASA; 2. Wikimedia Commons.
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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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