NASA's Hubble Telescope has captured a stunning spiraling star formation at the center of a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth

Hubble Telescope captures stunning star formation in stellar nursery 200,000 light-years away

Hubble Telescope captures stunning spiraling star formation in stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth, giving us a glimpse into the early universe

  • NASA’s Hubble Telescope captured a beautiful image of spiraling star formation at the center of a stellar nursery
  • The young stars are located in NGC 346, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way galaxy located 200,000 light years from Earth.
  • “The stars are the machines that sculpt the universe. We wouldn’t have life without stars, and yet we don’t fully understand how they form,” the study leader said.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has captured a stunning spiraling star formation at the center of a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth.

Young stars can be seen spiraling at the center of a huge star cluster known as NGC 346 located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way and one of our galactic neighbors the closest.

Researchers using power from Hubble and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope say the spiral’s outer arm could fuel star formation in a river-like motion of gas and stars.

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers. NGC 346 also has the mass of 50,000 suns. To put that into context, the sun is massive enough to hold around 1.3 million Earths inside.

It took the combined power of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to unravel the behavior of this mysterious stellar nesting site.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has captured a stunning spiraling star formation at the center of a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth

The study of the evolution of the positions of stars over a period of 11 years. Stars move at an average speed of 2,000 miles per hour, so during that time they travel an astonishing 200 million miles.

Since the cluster is more distant, the researchers’ observations were only possible due to Hubble’s higher resolution and sensitivity – as well as its three-decade history of scanning the cosmos.

“The stars are the machines that sculpt the universe. We wouldn’t have life without stars, and yet we don’t fully understand how they form,” study leader Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore said in a statement.

“We have multiple models making predictions, and some of those predictions are contradictory. We want to determine what regulates the process of star formation, because these are the laws we need to also understand what we see in the early universe.

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers.  NGC 346 also has the mass of 50,000 suns.  To put that into context, the sun is massive enough to hold around 1.3 million Earths inside.

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers. NGC 346 also has the mass of 50,000 suns. To put that into context, the sun is massive enough to hold around 1.3 million Earths inside.

NASA's Hubble Telescope was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and deployed into orbit the next day.  NASA hopes it will continue to provide fruitful data to scientists well into the 2020s

NASA’s Hubble Telescope was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and deployed into orbit the next day. NASA hopes it will continue to provide fruitful data to scientists well into the 2020s

“A spiral is really the right natural way to fuel star formation from the outside towards the center of the cluster,” Zeidler explained. “It’s the most efficient way for stars and gas that fuels more star formation to move toward the center.”

A second team used the VLT’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Exploration (MUSE) instrument on the ground to measure radial velocity – which lets us know if an object is approaching or moving away from an observer.

Half of Hubble’s data for this study, published in The Astrophysical Journal on September 8, is archival.

Although the first sightings were made 11 years ago, researchers have repeated them recently.

“The Hubble Archive is truly a gold mine,” Sabbi said. “There are so many interesting star forming regions that Hubble has observed over the years. Since Hubble works so well, we can actually repeat these observations. It can really advance our understanding of star formation.

Scientists expect observations from the James Webb Space Telescope – which is larger and more powerful than Hubble and just released its first images in July – will be able to resolve some of the lower mass stars in the heap.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and deployed into orbit the next day. NASA hopes it will continue to provide fruitful data to scientists well into the 2020s.

Hubble orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 340 miles (547 kilometers). It travels at a speed of around 17,000 miles per hour (27,300 kilometers per hour) and takes around 95 minutes to orbit the Earth.

Hubble orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 340 miles (547 kilometers).  It moves at a speed of around 17,000 miles per hour (27,300 kilometers per hour) and takes around 95 minutes to orbit the Earth.

Hubble orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 340 miles (547 kilometers). It moves at a speed of around 17,000 miles per hour (27,300 kilometers per hour) and takes around 95 minutes to orbit the Earth.

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