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Happy Holidays from the Hubble Space Telescope: A Cosmic Snow Angel

Just in time for the holidays, the Hubble Space Telescope has delivered an amazing view of a cosmic event that is being called the “Holiday Snow Angel.”

The image captures a compact star-forming region in the constellation Cygnus that is 2,000 light years away from Earth. All the commotion is being caused by the formation of a star called S106 IR that is found in the center of the image.

The snow angel may look peaceful, but what is going on in the image is an incredibly violent event. Hubble spokesman Ray Villard told CNN: “A super-hot star much larger than our sun has twin blowtorches of hot gas shooting out into space. The star is destined for a short life and will then explode as a supernova, disintegrating everything around it.”

Image courtesy of NASA,ESA, N. Risinger (Photopic Sky Surveys), Digitized Sky Survey 2, Subaru Telescope (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), and theHubble HeritageTeam (STScI/AURA)

This image reminds me of the opening lines of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?
and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,
which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.


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