To celebrate its own 24th birthday, the Hubble telescope caught up with some stars right as they were being born, providing us with these infrared images of a mass of stars as they blink into existence.
The pictures comes from the Monkey Head Nebula, over 6,400 lightyears away from us. Via NASA:
Massive newborn stars near the center of the nebula (and toward the right in this image) are blasting away at dust within the nebula. The ultraviolet light emitted by these bright stars helps shape the dust into giant pillars. This carving action occurs because the nebula is mostly composed of hydrogen gas, which becomes ionized by the ultraviolet radiation. As the dust particles are warmed by the ultraviolet light of the stars, they heat up and begin to glow at infrared wavelengths.
Here's the full collection of shots, which are not only gorgeous, they also answer the eternal question: Just what do you get a giant space telescope for its birthday? (Answer: Nothing! It gets you something.)
Images: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA