Valentine's Day. Is it a romantic day or one invented by greeting card companies and sellers of luxury goods? It certainly isn't an astronomical holiday, but whatever your view of the day, you can enjoy this selection of cosmic valentines.
I' ve come across this astro-heart recently. (It was uploaded to Pinterest by Vicki Blake.) It's a heart-shaped collage of nebulae. You may recognize part of the iconic Hubble Crab Nebula image in the top center of the heart.
This heart glows brightly in red light emitted by its most prominent element: hydrogen. The red glow and the larger shape are all created by a small group of stars near the nebula's center. In the heart of the Heart Nebula are young stars from the open star cluster Melotte 15 that are eroding away several picturesque dust pillars with their energetic light and winds. The open cluster of stars contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, many dim stars only a fraction of the mass of our Sun, and an absent microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago. The Heart Nebula is located about 7,500 light years away toward the constellation of the mythological Queen of Aethiopia (Cassiopeia).
Credit & Copyright: Alan Erickson Description: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)