Spitzer spots a spooky jack-o-lantern nebula

An image of a cosmic pumpkin has been released by the Spitzer Space Telescope team just in time for Halloween.

Spitzer spots a spooky jack-o-lantern nebula. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

If you’re an astronomy or space fan, one of the best things about Halloween is the spooky astrophotos released each year of nebulaic clouds resembling witches, ghosts and ghouls (like this ghostly galactic collision captured recently by the Hubble Space Telescope).

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The Spitzer Space Telescope team has released this image of the ‘Jack o’lantern Nebula’, so-named due to its resemblance to a hollowed-out pumpkin.

The image was captured in three wavelengths of infrared light: green and red showing cosmic dust glowing at different temperatures, and blue representing stars and scorching hot regions within the nebula.

By processing the image to make the red and green stand out, the science team have generated an orange hue to make the pumpkin effect complete.

The shape of the cloud itself is likely a result of a star about 20 times heavier than the Sun emanating powerful outflows of radiation, which sculpts and shapes the surrounding dust. This star can be seen as a white dot within a red region at the centre of the image.

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Observatory Spitzer Space Telescope

Release date 30 October 2019

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Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech