A stellar nursery bursts with bubbles, plankton paint the North Atlantic, jets stream from a galactic merger and more in our selections for this week's best space-related images.
Even in space, hot young stars can't seem to gather without a little bubbly. This dramatic image of the nebula known as RCW 34 captures massive blue stars glowing around a red cloud of dust and hydrogen gas that is experiencing a phenomenon called champagne flow. In the brightest region of the cloud, gas is being heated by radiation from stars inside, and the hot material rises through its colder surroundings. When it reaches the edges of the cloud, the hot gas bursts outward like bubbles from a champagne bottle.
The abundance of hydrogen in RCW 34 is a sign to astronomers that new stars are forming within the dusty cloud. This visible-light image, taken using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in northern Chile, shows off the cloud's vibrant colors. But infrared telescopes peering into the cloud are able to see past the red glow, revealing multiple generations of stars that have been born inside this cosmic nest.