HUBBLE OBSERVES INFANT STARS IN NEARBY GALAXY
This new image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
depicts bright, blue, newly formed stars that are
blowing a cavity in the center of a star-forming
region in the Small Magellanic Cloud.
At the heart of the star-forming region, lies star
cluster NGC 602. The high-energy
radiation blazing out from the hot young stars is
eroding the outer portions of the nebula from the
inside, as the diffuse outer reaches of the nebula
prevent the energetic outflows from streaming away
from the cluster.
Ridges of dust and gaseous filaments are seen towards
the northwest (in the upper-left part of the image)
and towards the southeast (in the lower right-hand
corner). Elephant trunk-like dust pillars point
towards the hot blue stars and are tell-tale signs
of their eroding effect. In this region it is possible
with Hubble to trace how the star formation started
at the center of the cluster and propagated outward,
with the youngest stars still forming today along
the dust ridges.
The Small Magellanic Cloud, in the constellation
Tucana, is roughly 200,000 light-years from the
Earth. Its proximity to us makes it an exceptional
laboratory to perform in-depth studies of star formation
processes and their evolution in an environment
slightly different from our own Milky Way.
Dwarf galaxies such as the Small Magellanic Cloud,
with significantly fewer stars compared to our own
galaxy, are considered to be the primitive building
blocks of larger galaxies. The study of star formation
within this dwarf galaxy is particularly interesting
to astronomers because its primitive nature means
that it lacks a large percentage of the heavier
elements that are forged in successive generations
of stars through nuclear fusion.
These observations were taken with Hubble’s
Advanced Camera for Surveys in July 2004. Filters
that isolate visible and infrared light were combined
with a filter that samples the hydrogen and nitrogen
emission from the glowing clouds.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
Acknowledgment: L. Carlson (JHU) and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)