It’s Halloween! NASA Space Telescope Spots a Ghostly Cosmic Jack-O’Lantern

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Outflows of radiation and particles from a massive O-type star carved deep gouges in this nebula, making the cloud of gas and dust look like a spooky jack-o’-lantern.
(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted a cosmic jack-o’-lantern. 

Researchers uncovered the grimacing pumpkin while mapping star formation in the outer region of the Milky Way. A new animation of the nebula outlines the hollowed-out pumpkin, which appears to be screaming into space.

The carved-out cloud of gas and dust is caused by the outflow of radiation and particles from a massive O-type star that is 15 to 20 times more massive than the sun, according to a statement from NASA. 

The Spitzer Space Telescope detects infrared light and was able to reveal the massive glowing star at the center of the cloud, which is also known as a nebula. Streams of stellar material likely swept the surrounding dust and gas outward, carving deep gouges in the cloud, which scientists have nicknamed the Jack-o’-lantern Nebula. 

The colors captured in the NASA image represent different wavelengths of infrared light. The green and red regions represent light emitted by dust radiating at different temperatures. The O-type star that carved out the Jack-o’-lantern is represented by the white spot near the center of the nebula, according to the statement. 

The new GIF is a high-contrast version of Spitzer image, making the red wavelength more pronounced and, in turn, creating a spooky orange backdrop perfect for Halloween. 

Observations of the Jack-o’-lantern Nebula were published July 18 in The Astrophysical Journal, as part of a study of the outer Milky Way. 

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