The European Space Agency brings us this new image based on data from the Planck satellite. My first reaction? It looks just like Van Gogh’s best-known masterpiece, The Starry Night. And you know what? Even Google agrees with me.
The ESA’s image is actually entitled Star formation and magnetic turbulence in the Orion Molecular Cloud. According to the ESA, it depicts the formation of stars in the turbulent billows of gas and dust of the Orion Molecular Cloud.
The ESA explains what we can see in this image:
Our Galaxy is pervaded by a diffuse mixture of gas and dust that occasionally becomes denser, creating giant gas clouds where stars can form. While present only in traces, dust is a crucial ingredient in these interstellar clouds. […] This image combines a visualisation of the total intensity of dust emission, shown in the colour scale, with an indication of the magnetic field’s orientation, represented by the texture.
Blue hues correspond to regions with little dust, while the yellow and red areas reflect denser (and mostly hotter) clouds containing larger amounts of dust, as well as gas. The red clumps at the centre of the image are part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, one of the closest large regions of star formation, only about 1300 light-years from the Sun. The most prominent of the red clumps, to the lower left of centre, is the famous Orion Nebula, also known as M42. This is visible to the naked eye in the constellation Orion, just below the three stars forming the ‘belt’ of the mythological hunter.
And here are the results of a quick Google image search: