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Spitzer/IRAC Image of the Trifid Nebula
Ssc2005 02b4

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Rho (SSC/Caltech)

Observation • January 12th, 2005 • ssc2005-02b4


This image shows a close-up infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope of the glowing Trifid Nebula, a giant star-forming cloud of gas and dust located 5,400 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.Data of this same region from the Institute for Radioastronomy millimeter telescope in Spain revealed four dense knots, or cores, of dust, which are "incubators" for embryonic stars. Astronomers thought these cores were not yet ripe for stars, until Spitzer spotted the warmth of rapidly growing massive embryos tucked inside.These embryos are revealed in the false-color Spitzer picture, taken by the telescope's infrared array camera (IRAC). Spitzer found clusters of embryos in two of the cores and only single embryos in the other two. This is one of the first times that multiple embryos have been observed in individual cores at this early stage of stellar development.

In this false-color image, light from 3.6 microns is red, 4.5 microns is green, 5.8 microns is orange and 8 microns is red.

About the Object

Trifid NebulaMessier 20M20
Nebula > Type > Star Formation
Star > Evolutionary Stage > Protostar
5,400 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 4.5 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 5.8 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =18h 2m 23.8s
Dec = -23° 2' 45.0"
Field of View
14.8 x 14.8 arcminutes
North is 1.9° left of vertical