In a recently-released view of the beautiful Trifid Nebula, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) takes an intimate look into the effects of star birth inside the cloud of dust and gas.
The Trifid Nebula is located around 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius and consists of a rare combination of an open cluster of stars, an emission nebula, a reflection nebula and a dark nebula -- the latter of which creates the dark lanes of material in the main portion to create the famous 3-lobe trifid pattern.
However, in this WISE view, the dark nebula, which consists of obscuring dust in visible wavelengths, glows bright in infrared wavelengths, creating an inverted view of the Trifid Nebula when compared with visible light imagery, as seen here:
The Trifid is alive with star formation; violent stellar winds erupt from baby stars creating large voids in the interstellar material. With the help of WISE, astronomers can dissect the region. The blue stars are comparatively old stars that lie between the nebula and Earth. The reddish region above the Trifid Nebula is dust and gas being heated by baby stars and the entire region is surrounded by the green haze of hydrogen gas.
This observation was imaged during WISE's primary all-sky survey mission between 2010 and 2011. The mission has now been renamed NEOWISE and is currently being used to detect and characterize asteroids and comets that drift close to our planet's orbit around the sun.