This mid-infrared, false-colour composite image shows the reflection nebula IC 1396 in the constellation Cepheus, as viewed by AKARI’s Infrared Camera (IRC) in its scanning mode (at 9 and 18 micrometers wavelength). IC 1396 is a bright star formation region located about 3000 light years from our Solar System, in a region where very massive (several tens of solar masses) stars are presently being born. Massive young stars in the central region of the image have swept out the gas and dust to the periphery of the nebula, creating a hollow shell-like structure.
The formation of a new generation of stars is now taking place within the compressed gas in these outer shell structures. With this high-resolution and high-quality image AKARI has revealed for the first time the detailed distribution of the gas and dust swept out over the entire nebula. Many recently born stars that were previously unknown are now expected to be detected thanks to this new image, while detailed analysis of these data will reveal the story of the star formation in this area.