Over 2,000 stars detected in North America Nebula

43351.jpegMore than 2,000 candidate stars have been detected in the North America Nebula thanks to the infrared eyes of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Previously only 200 young stars were known to exist in the nebula - which takes its name from the shape of the continent of North America, complete with the Gulf of Mexico - because newborn stars are swathed in blankets of dust that are hidden in visible light images.

Thanks to Spitzer's penetrating infrared eyes, it can pierce these dusty cloaks to reveal the locations of new star-forming regions, according to Astronomy Now Online.

According to NASA, clusters of young stars (about one million years old) can be found throughout the image. Slightly older but still very young stars (about 3 to 5 million years) are also liberally scattered across the complex, with concentrations near the "head" region of the Pelican nebula, which is located to the right of the North American nebula.

Larger scale mysteries are here too, such as involving North American nebula's power source. The Spitzer image hints that the missing stars are lurking behind the Gulf of Mexico portion of the nebula.

The nebula's distance from Earth is also a mystery. According to NASA, current estimates put it at about 1,800 light-years from Earth, International Business Times reports.


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