Picture of the Day: RCW 120, a Region of Glowing Dust, Hot Gas


Taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, this infrared photograph shows a glowing emerald nebula named RCW 120. Found in the clouds that surround the tail of the constellation Scorpius, RCW 120 is a region of glowing dust and hot gas. Inside of that red bubble at the center of the image are a cluster of giant stars, though they're hard to make out here as the infrared detectors of Spitzer cause them to blend together.

The nebula "is reminiscent of the glowing ring wielded by the superhero Green Lantern," according to NASA. "In the comic books, the diminutive Guardians of the Planet 'Oa' forged his power ring, but astronomers believe rings like this are actually sculpted by the powerful light of giant 'O' stars, the most massive type of star known to exist."

This hot, glowing bubble isn't very unique. While especially radiant, RCW 120 is just one of several such objects Spitzer has found throughout the Milky Way galaxy. The small red specks seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen could be very similar to RCW 120, just further out in space.

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Image: NASA.