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NGC 346 in Color

An international team of astronomers, led by Dr. Antonella Nota of the Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency in Baltimore, has been studying the Hubble data of NGC 346. In an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters the team reports the discovery of a rich population of infant stars scattered around the young cluster NGC 346. These stars are likely to have formed 3 to 5 million years ago, together with the other stars in the NGC 346 cluster. These infant stars are particularly interesting as they have not yet contracted to the point where their interiors are hot enough to convert hydrogen to helium.

NGC 346 resides in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Small and Large Magellanic Clouds are diffuse irregular galaxies visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. They are two smallish satellite galaxies that orbit our own Milky Way Galaxy on a long slow journey inwards towards a future union with the Milky Way. Hubble has resolved many star formation regions in both of these neighboring galaxies that provide astronomers with laboratories other than our own Milky Way Galaxy to study how young stars interact with and shape their environments. The two satellites are named after the Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) who sailed from Europe to Asia and is best known as the first person to lead an expedition to circumnavigate the globe.

Top Left Image: STScI 2005-35: NGC 346 ACS/WFC in I, V, Halpha. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)

Bottom Left Image: STScI 2005-04: NGC 346 ACS/WFC in I, and V. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)

Images Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)