Herschel’s looking at the stars!

Herschel SPIRE and PACS images

Today’s space pics arrive courtesy of ESA’s cool infrared Herschel observatory, launched earlier this year along with ESA’s even cooler Planck observatory. Both of whom are twittering away – Planck and Herschel. Fine-tuned from its initial test observation Herschel has been looking at a reservoir of cold gas in the constellation of the Southern Cross near the Galactic Plane. Image credits: Left panel: ESA and the SPIRE consortium, Right panel: ESA and the PACS consortium. BBC report here. And from the ESA press release

That a dark, cool area such as this would be bustling with activity, was unexpected. But the images reveal a surprising amount of turmoil: the interstellar material is condensing into continuous and interconnected filaments glowing from the light emitted by new-born stars at various stages of development. Ours is a tireless Galaxy constantly forging new generations of stars.

Here’s a new ESA video on Herschel [no narration]. “A pioneering mission to study the origin and evolution of stars and galaxies, it will help [us] understand how the Universe came to be what it is today.”

And from the Herschel blog

The images show intricate filamentary structures made from cold interstellar material. This matter feeds galactic star formation, and this image provides new insights into these highly turbulent processes.

5 colour Herschel image of part of our galaxy

Credits: ESA and the SPIRE and PACS consortium.