May 21 (UPI) -- A new image captured by the Herschel Space Observatory and shared by the European Space Agency on Monday showcases a massive stellar nursery located 12,000 light-years away.
The G305 complex, which hosts a variety of star-forming hotspots, is located near the Coalsack Nebula. In the night sky, the region is situated within the Southern Cross, or Crux constellation.
While G305 is home to many bright, newborn stars, the star-forming region is surrounded by dark clouds of molecular gas and dust. These swirling layers of star-forming materials block out the light of newborn stars, causing the region to appear as a splotch of dark black against the starry backdrop of the Milk Way.
As revealed in the new Herschel image, the blue light of the complex's most intense star-forming regions can be seen bursting through breaks in the clouds. Among the patches of blue in the top right portion of the image lies a massive star called WR48a, as well as two neighboring stellar clusters, Danks 1 and 2.
The stellar wind from these stars has pushed away the surrounding gas and dust. The gas and dust concentrated at the edge of the heart-shaped bubble are fueling the formation of another generation of stars -- stars that will further contort the shapes of the nebular clouds.
Among the the G305 complex are 16 different hotspots where high-mass stars are forming, making the regions one of the Milky Ways most populous star-forming complexes.
"The region is one of the brightest and most plentiful star-forming complexes in the Milky Way, and an ideal ground to observe and study massive stars at different stages of formation and evolution," ESA wrote in an update.
Astronomers at ESA are using Herschel to image dense star-forming regions at far infrared and submillimeter wavelengths as part of the Hi-GAL survey. Images like the one shared by ESA help scientists better understand the formation process of high-mass stars.