Amazing WISE Telescope images reveal runaway stars and cosmic jellyfish

This is the Flaming Star Nebula, a gigantic nebula 1,500 light-years away with the blazing runaway star AE Aurigae at its center. This is just one of the amazing new images revealed by NASA's powerful infrared telescope.

AE Aurigae likely began life in the constellation of Orion, but a collision with a binary star system some 2.5 million years ago sent it flying off into the vast reaches of space. It's now the bright heart of the Flaming Star Nebula, which takes its name from the fact that AE Aurigae is so bright that it appears to be ablaze. You can see the full image of the nebula in the gallery below, as well as three other awesome new images from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which has just completed its first year of service.

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There's the Jellyfish Nebula, which takes it name from the familiar shape created by an exploding supernova some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The explosion heated up surrounding gas and dust, forming a shell of heated particles around the remnants of the star. Then there's the Orion Molecular Cloud, a vast collection of three nebulae that encompasses the Flame Nebula, Horsehead Nebula, and NGC 2023. This vast cloud, also located about 1,500 light-years away, takes up an area of sky equal to three full Moons.

Finally, there's the nebula IC 2944, which is also known as both Lambda Centauri and, rather awesomely, the Running Chicken Nebula. It's quite a bit further out, about 5,800 light-years away. It's home to a vast new star cluster born some 8 million years ago, and the green ring at the center of the image is over 77 light-years across.

For more amazing images from WISE, check out our earlier post.

[via Space.com]