Space telescopes showcase star formation inside, outside the Milky Way

By Brooks Hays  |  March 26, 2018 at 11:21 AM
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March 26 (UPI) -- Stellar nurseries are the subject of two images from the Hubble Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory, shared this week on their respective homepages.

The Hubble image offers a portrait of the nebula NGC 346. The bright white glow of newly formed stars can be seen penetrating the nebula's vibrant blue -- and still collapsing -- gas clouds. The infant stars are so young they have to tap into their hydrogen fuel and ignite nuclear fusion.

NGC 346 is located some 210,000 light-years from Earth and is associated with the Small Magellanic Cloud, an irregular dwarf galaxy and one of the Milky Way's closest intergalactic neighbors.

As an image captured by the Herschel Space Observatory and shared by the European Space Agency shows, star formation is happening inside the Milky Way, too.

Herschel captured far-infrared observations of dense star-forming regions inside the Milky Way's Carina neighbourhood, home to the oft-photographed Carina Nebula. The nebula and its star-forming clouds are situated in the galactic plane some 1,500 light-years from our sun.

In the image, cooler regions of the nebular filaments have a reddish-brown coloration, while hotter regions, home to more intense rates of stellar formation, glow blue and white. The forming stars are shrouded by molecular gas clouds. The gas filaments fuel the formation of new stars as the molecules cool and condense.

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