Resembling curling flames from a campfire, a magnificent nebula in a nearby galaxy observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope provides new insight into the fierce birth of stars as it may have occurred in the early universe.
The picture, taken by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, is online at http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2001/39/image/a/. The camera was designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
The glowing gas cloud, called Hubble-V, has a diameter of about 200 light-years. A faint tail of gas and dust trailing off the top of the image sits opposite a dense cluster of bright stars at the bottom of the irregularly shaped nebula. Hubble's resolution and ultraviolet sensitivity reveal a dense knot of dozens of ultra-hot stars nestled in the nebula. Each star glows 100,000 times brighter than our Sun. These 4-million-year-old stars, considered youthful in the cosmic time scale, are too distant and crowded together to be resolved from ground-based telescopes. The small, irregular host galaxy, called NGC 6822, is one of the Milky Way's closest neighbors. It lies 1.6 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.
The Hubble-V image data was taken by two science teams: C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. and collaborators, and Luciana Bianchi of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and Osservatorio Astronomico, Torinese, Italy, and collaborators. This color image was produced by the Hubble Heritage Team at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope is available at http://www.stsci.edu/hst/. More information about the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 is available at http://www.stsci.edu/hst/wfpc2.