Press Release

Star Cluster Bursts Into Life in New Hubble Image

By SpaceRef Editor
October 2, 2007
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Star Cluster Bursts Into Life in New Hubble Image
STScI-2007-34.jpg

Thousands of sparkling young stars are nestled within the giant nebula NGC 3603. This stellar “jewel box” is one of the most massive young star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy.

NGC 3603 is a prominent star-forming region in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way, about 20,000 light-years away. This latest image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows a young star cluster surrounded by a vast region of dust and gas.

The image reveals stages in the life cycle of stars.

Powerful ultraviolet radiation and fast winds from the bluest and hottest stars have blown a big bubble around the cluster. Moving into the surrounding nebula, this torrent of radiation sculpted the tall, dark stalks of dense gas, which are embedded in the walls of the nebula. These gaseous monoliths are a few light-years tall and point to the central cluster. The stalks may be incubators for new stars.

On a smaller scale, a cluster of dark clouds called “Bok” globules resides at the top, right corner. These clouds are composed of dense dust and gas and are about 10 to 50 times more massive than the Sun. Resembling an insect’s cocoon, a Bok globule may be undergoing a gravitational collapse on its way to forming new stars.

The nebula was first discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1834. The image spans roughly 17 light-years and was taken Dec. 29, 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Acknowledgment: J. Maiz Apellaniz

Images and additional information about NGC 3603 are available at:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2007/34

http://heritage.stsci.edu/2007/34

http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/html/heic0715.html

For more information, please contact:

Jesus Maiz Apellaniz
Instituto de astrofisica de Andalucia, Spain
011-34-958-230-529
[email protected]

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA
1-410-338-4514
[email protected]

Lars Lindberg Christensen
Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
011-49-89-3200-6306
[email protected]

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington.

SpaceRef staff editor.