Young stars themselves are clearing out their nursery in NGC 7822. Within the nebula, bright edges and complex dust sculptures dominate this detailed skyscape taken ininfrared light by NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. NGC 7822 lies at the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, a glowing star forming region that lies about 3,000 light-years away. The atomic emission of light by the nebula’s gas is powered by energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and light also sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse, but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cut off from their reservoir of star stuff. This field spans around 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822.
Since meteoroids that are fragments of comets and asteroids enter our atmosphere travel along the same route at similar speeds, the naked eye perceives them to come from one area of the sky, known as the radiant. When looking at the radiant during a meteor shower, we see meteoroids mixing with Earth’s gases as they enter the atmosphere. As they mix , great heat is produced and they briefly illuminate, with a glowing streak following the meteoroid. This flash of light following the meteoroid is what we know as a meteor or shooting star. Luckily, observers don’t have to aimlessly wait for a meteoroid to break off of a comet or asteroid and come plummeting towards Earth. There are numerous meteor showers that occur annually, and we’ve created a guide to the major showers coming up in the next year.