The dark space between the stars is not a perfect vacuum. It is filled with primordial gas created at the birth of the Universe and the microscopic-sized debris of long-ago exploded stars. These nascent mists can be so thin that they are barely detectable. But an event in one part of the Milky Way can trigger consequences in another even though the two may be separated across half the Galaxy and by millions of years. For example, when a star three times or more massive than our Sun reaches the end of its nuclear fuel, it will rapidly collapse inwards at unbelievably high velocity until it collides with its inner core of iron and re-bounds outward. This creates a shock wave that literally rips the star into shreds creating a supernova explosion that briefly outshines the combined light of all the stars in the Galaxy.

Like expanding, concentric waves that result from throwing a rock into water, vast, powerful ripples of energy move outward from the site of a supernova's conflagration. Eventually these start to squeeze the gas and dust that drifts thorough out space and begins to compress them into enormous dark clouds that can span hundreds of light years in width (one light year is about ten trillion kilometers or six trillion miles). If enough material is affected, it will start to condense inward due to its own weight. Overtime, the pressure (and resulting heat) within the cloud will become so great that a thermonuclear explosion will be triggered. The outward force of this explosion will stop the cloud's collapse and as the energy reaches its exterior surface, it will escape as heat and light and thus transform the cloud into a star.

Stellar nurseries hold significant fascination since our solar system was also created within one. When we see the birthplace of stars we glimpse the forces at work during our planet's origin- an event that also led to our being.

This picture is of a place that is 1,500 lights years from where you are seated in the direction of the constellation called Orion. The elongated, darker cloud that hangs in front of the larger, brighter nebula (the fox's snout) is an active star forming region. Waves of new star energy, pouring out from within the dark globule, are significantly disturbing the surrounding area- you can see the effect of these blasts on the cloud patterns. The blue, teal and yellow hues are from light reflecting off dust that engulfs this area. The brighter red material, that loops and curls, represents hydrogen gas that has been excited to glow by the energy released from newly formed stars.