Science

Hubble Telescope Captures Stunning Star Formation in Stellar Nursery 200,000 Light-Years Away

NASA's Hubble Telescope has captured the formation of a stunning spiral star at the center of a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth.
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Hubble telescope captures stunning spiral star formation in a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth – gives us first peak at universe

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

POTIts Hubble telescope captured the formation of a stunning spiral star at the center of a stellar nursery 200,000 light-years from Earth.

The young stars are seen orbiting the center of a massive cluster of stars known as NGC 346 located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way and one of our closest galactic neighbors.

Using the power of Hubble and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, researchers say the spiral’s outer arm can feed gas and star formation at a river-like pace.

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers. NGC 346 also boasts a mass of 50,000 Suns. To put this into context, the Sun is massive enough to hold about 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-looking stellar nesting ground.

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

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

The study looked at changes in the stars’ positions over 11 years. Stars move at an average speed of 2,000 miles per hour, so they move an astonishing 200 million miles in this span.

Because the cluster is further away, the researchers’ observations were only possible because of Hubble’s superior resolution and sensitivity — along with its three-decade history of scanning the cosmos.

‘Stars are the machines that sculpt the universe. Without them we wouldn’t have life, 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 several models that make predictions and some of these predictions are contradictory. We want to determine what is controlling the star formation process, because these are the rules that we also need to understand what we see in the early universe.’

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers.  NGC 346 also boasts a mass of 50,000 Suns.  To put this into context, the Sun is massive enough to hold about 1.3 million Earths inside

The unique shape of the stellar nursery has long puzzled astronomers. NGC 346 also boasts a mass of 50,000 Suns. To put this into context, the Sun is massive enough to hold about 1.3 million Earths inside

NASA's Hubble Telescope was launched on the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and placed into orbit the next day.  NASA is optimistic that it will continue to provide fruitful data for scientists in the 2020s

NASA’s Hubble Telescope was launched on the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and placed into orbit the next day. NASA is optimistic that it will continue to provide fruitful data for scientists in the 2020s

‘A spiral is a really good, natural way to feed star formation from the outside towards the center of the cluster,’ Zeidler explained. ‘This is the most efficient way that stars and gas fuel can move further towards the center of star formation.’

A second team used the ground-based VLT’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument to measure radial velocity—which lets us know whether an object is approaching or falling toward an observer.

Half of the Hubble data for this study are published Astrophysical Journal September 8, Archival.

Although the initial observations were taken 11 years ago, researchers have recently repeated them again.

‘The Hubble archive is truly a gold mine,’ Sabbi said. ‘There are many interesting star-forming regions that Hubble has observed over the years. Given that Hubble is doing so well, we can actually repeat these observations. This could really advance our understanding of star formation.’

Scientists hope that observations from the James Webb Space Telescope – which is bigger and more powerful than Hubble and just released its Early picture In July – some low-mass stars in the cluster will be able to resolve.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope was launched on the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and placed into orbit the next day. NASA is optimistic that it will continue to provide fruitful data for scientists in the 2020s.

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

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

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

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