Deep inside the famous Orion Nebula, a colony of very young stars have been imaged by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Although the observatory ran out of liquid helium coolant in May 2009, two modules inside its Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) remain fully operational, capturing wonderfully detailed pictures of Orion's star-forming region currently exploding with stellar life.
BIG PIC: Take a high resolution tour of Spitzer's view of the Orion Nebula.
The best thing about Spitzer's new "Warm Mission" is that it can observe the same location for very long periods of time. The space telescope is carrying out the "Young Stellar Object Variability" program and has been watching the same region for 40 days, sending back 80 images. Another long observing campaign is planned for the end of 2010.
The advantage of keeping a watchful eye on this star-forming region is that the brightness of Orion's baby stars change rapidly, so the longer you watch, the more variability you see.
Many of these stars are only a million years old, a tiny amount of time in cosmological timescales (compare that with our middle-age sun at a geriatric 4.6 billion years old). And as these stars are so young, there's lots of changing features on (or near) the newborn stars, holding a wealth of information about how stars are born, grow and mature.