A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a turbulent star-forming region, where rivers of gas and stellar winds are eroding thickets of dusty material.
The picture provides some of the best examples yet of the ripples of gas, or bow shocks, that can form around stars in choppy cosmic waters.
"The stars are like rocks in a rushing river," said Matt Povich of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Powerful winds from the most massive stars at the center of the cloud produce a large flow of expanding gas. This gas then piles up with dust in front of winds from other massive stars that are pushing back against the flow."
Swan nebula (M17) – click for 516×420 image