For its 24th birthday, the Hubble Space Telescope released this celebratory snap of part of the Monkey Head Nebula.
Otherwise known as NGC 2174, this cloud of gas and dust lies about 6 400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
This region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust. Dark dust clouds billow outwards, framed against a background of bright blue gas. These striking hues were formed by combining several Hubble images taken through different coloured filters, revealing a broad range of colours not normally visible to our eyes.
These vivid clouds are actually a violent stellar nursery packed with the ingredients needed for building stars. The recipe for cooking up new stars is quite inefficient, and most of the ingredients are wasted as the cloud of gas and dust disperses. This process is accelerated by the presence of fiercely hot young stars, which triggers high-speed winds that help to blow the gas outwards.
Image release date: 17 March 2014
Image credit: Nasa/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)