Young stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, c 1990-2005.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
View of one of the most dynamic and intricately detailed star-forming regions in space, 210,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. At the centre is a brilliant star cluster, NGC 346, surrounded by a dramatic structure of arched, ragged filaments with a distinct ridge. A torrent of radiation from the cluster's hot stars eats into denser areas creating a sculpture of dust and gas. The dark, beaded edge of the ridge, seen in silhouette, contains small dust globules that point back towards the central cluster, like windsocks in a gale. The NGC 346 cluster contains dozens of hot, blue, high-mass stars, more than half of the known high-mass stars in the entire SMC galaxy.