The ESA's Herschel satellite has instruments aboard that created this never-before-seen image of a star factory inside a dust-shrouded, mysterious region of the galaxy called "Gould's Belt." It's a vast ring of young stars that encircles our solar system.

Nobody is really sure what created Gould's Belt, but many researchers speculate that there was some kind of giant supernova or possibly rogue dark matter that sent out such massive bursts of energy that it created "ripples" spreading outward from the event. The Belt would be the result of those ripples. Here's a map showing some of the Belt's major features.


The image above is the first clear view of one of these features. According to ESA:

Some 700 newly-forming stars are estimated to be crowded into these colourful filaments of dust. The complex is part of a mysterious ring of stars called Gould's Belt.

This image shows a dark cloud 1000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. It covers an area 65 light-years across and is so shrouded in dust that no previous infrared satellite has been able to see into it. Now, thanks to Herschel's superior sensitivity at the longest wavelengths of infrared, astronomers have their first picture of the interior of this cloud . . .

This cloud is part of Gould's Belt, a giant ring of stars that circles the night sky – the Solar System just happens to lie near the centre of the belt. For more than a hundred years, astronomers have puzzled over the origin of this ring, which is tilted to the Milky Way by 20º. The first to notice this unexpected alignment, in the mid-19th century, was England's John Herschel, the son of William, after whom ESA's Herschel telescope is named. But it was Boston-born Benjamin Gould who brought the ring to wider attention in 1874.

Gould's Belt supplies bright stars to many constellations such as Orion, Scorpius and Crux, and conveniently provides nearby star-forming locations for astronomers to study.


Below, you can see an image of what Gould's Belt would look like from above the Milky Way galactic plane. Our solar system sits right in the middle of that white ring, which represents the Belt.

via ESA Portal and Orbiting Frog