A collection of gas and dust over 500 light-years across, the Perseus Molecular Cloud hosts an abundance of young stars. This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Perseus Molecular Cloud, a massive collection of gas and dust that stretches over 500 light-years across. Home to an abundance of young stars, it has drawn the attention of astronomers for decades.
Spitzer's Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS) instrument took this image during Spitzer's "cold mission," which ran from the spacecraft's launch in 2003 until 2009, when the space telescope exhausted its supply of liquid helium coolant. (This marked the beginning of Spitzer's "warm mission.") Infrared light can't be seen by the human eye, but warm objects, from human bodies to interstellar dust clouds, emit infrared light.
Infrared radiation from warm dust generates much of the glow seen here from the Perseus Molecular Cloud. Clusters of stars, such as the bright spot near the left side of the image, generate even more infrared light and illuminate the surrounding clouds like the Sun lighting up a cloudy sky at sunset. Much of the dust seen here emits little to no visible light (in fact, the dust blocks visible light) and is therefore revealed most clearly with infrared observatories like Spitzer.
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