N81 in the Small Magellanic Cloud, 1997.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
A NASA Hubble Space Telescope "family portrait" of young, ultra-bright stars nested in their embryonic cloud of glowing gases. The celestial maternity ward, called N81, is located 200,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a small irregular satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. Hubble's exquisite resolution allows astronomers to pinpoint 50 separate stars tightly packed in the nebula's core within a 10 light- year diameter - slightly more than twice the distance between earth and the nearest star to our sun. The closest pair of stars is only 1/3 of a light-year apart (0.3 arcseconds in the sky).