The Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, is swathed in a wispy veil in this image from the Spitzer Space Telescope.


Sitting more than 400 light-years from Earth towards the constellation Taurus, the Pleiades star cluster formed some 100 million years making it a mere cosmic toddler when compared the our own Sun’s five billion-year history.

The 19th century poet Alfred Lord Tennyson described the stars as “glittering like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.” The two brightest stars are known as Atlas and Pleione in Greek mythology, with seven others — or daughters — named Alcyone, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta, Celaeno and Asterope.

Here, the infrared-scanning Spitzer Space Telescope focuses on that “tangled silver braid,” revealing a web-like network of filaments of interstellar dust, which appear to be painted in yellow, green and red hues depending on wavelengths.

Spitzer’s observations revealed never-before seen brown dwarf stars and disks of planetary debris not seen in this view. The “parent” star Atlas appears at bottom, with six of the “sisters” in frame at the top.

— Staff