Like delicate cosmic petals, these clouds of interstellar dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years
away in the fertile star fields of the constellation Cepheus. Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully
cataloged as NGC 7023, this is not the only nebula in the sky to evoke the imagery of flowers.
Still, this beautiful digital image shows off the Iris Nebula's range of colors and symmetries. Within the Iris,
dusty nebular material surrounds a massive, hot, young star in
its formative years. Central filaments of cosmic dust glow with a reddish photoluminescence as some
dust grains effectively convert the star's invisible ultraviolet radiation to visible red light. Yet
the dominant color of the central nebula is blue, characteristic of dust grains reflecting starlight.
Dark, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas are present on the left of the image, and lead
the eye to see other convoluted and fantastic shapes. Infrared observations indicate that this nebula
may contain complex carbon molecules known as PAHs. As shown here, the bright blue portion of the Iris
Nebula is about six light-years across.
[Text from APOD]