--Universe Forum--Our Place In Space--Tour
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The Universe Forum's role as part of NASA's Education Support Network concluded in September, 2009. Please visit NASA at http://nasascience.nasa.gov/ for current information about NASA's science, education, and public outreach activities.

exploring: our place in space > nearby stars

Even 'nearby' stars are very far away.

Beyond our own Sun, the next nearest stars are incredibly far away. Even at the speed of light, it would take about 5 years to reach the nearest star. (Today's fastest spacecraft would take about 100,000 years.)

The distance to the stars is so great that we need a new measure of distance: the light-year, the distance that light travels in one year -- about 6 trillion miles. In the image above, a new generation of stars is being born from enormous clouds of dust and gas, some 5000 light-years from Earth. Can you make out the stars in this picture?

Top: Young stars forming in the Lagoon Nebula, in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Left: The Keyhole Nebula, near the Orion Nebula, about 1,500 light-years from Earth. New stars form when these huge amounts of matter collapse under their own gravity. The dust and gas in this image is illuminated by the light from a star nearby.

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