Odyssey -- for adventures in science!

Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo
Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

What In the World Is It?

This month’s mystery photo is a distant star-forming region in our Milky Way galaxy. What’s extremely special about this image is that it was recently taken with the new 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope, which was just dedicated on June 25th. It is the latest of the telescope’s "first-light" images. The Gemini North telescope stands atop a nearly 14,000-foot-high volcano called Mauna Kea on Hawaii. The telescope’s location lets astronomers look at the universe in infrared light with unprecedented detail. For example, you could not see most of the stars in this cluster in visible light (if you were to simply look through the telescope). These stars are still buried within the large cloud of dust and gas out of which they formed. The dust absorbs the visible light from the stars, making the stars invisible to our eyes. But some of the redder or infrared light escapes, and that’s what Gemini North can see. The reddest objects are likely to be more deeply buried in the cloud and may still be in the process of accumulating material from the cloud to form a star. The brightest star (at lower left) is in the foreground and is not part of the cluster. The three bright stars near the lower right hand corner of the image may be responsible for most of the hydrogen heating and are about 10 times more massive than our sun and more than 100,000 times brighter.


Copyright © 2001 Cobblestone Publishing