Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. "Rho Oph" is one of the closest star-forming regions to our own solar system. Located near the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus, the nebula is about 407 light years away from Earth. Rho Oph is a complex made up of a large main cloud of molecular hydrogen, a key molecule allowing new stars to form from cold cosmic gas, with two long streamers trailing off in different directions. Recent studies using the latest X-ray and infrared observations reveal more than 300 young stellar objects within the large central cloud. Their median age is only 300,000 years, very young compared to some of the universe's oldest stars, which are more than 12
billion years old.
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