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New Hubble image shows life cycle of stars

This Hubble true-color image shows a region in the Milky Way Galaxy where all stages of star birth and evolution are present at once

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June 1, 1999
Web posted at: 2:57 p.m. EDT (1857 GMT)

CHICAGO (CNN) -- A stunning new picture taken with the Hubble Space Telescope shows a unique region in our own Milky Way Galaxy where all stages of star birth and evolution are present at once.

The image shows a giant galactic nebula, or cloud of gas, called NCG 3603. Within the nebula, a blue supergiant star called Sher 25 is surrounded by a ring of glowing gas that astronomers believe is made up of chemically enriched material that, over time, feeds the formation of new stars.

Nearby Sher 25, is a dense, bluish-white knot of material that scientists say is a so-called starburst cluster, consisting of hot, young stars.

Surrounding Sher 25 and the starburst cluster are giant pillars of gas that form when radiation from stars interacts with cold hydrogen clouds in deep space.

Small, dark clouds in the upper right corner of the image are Bok globules, which are very early structures of star formation.

And, in the lower left of the image, astronomers have identified two tadpole-shaped "emission nebulae," which are thought to be gas and dust from protoplanetary disks. Eventually, solar systems could form from these structures.

The image is a true-color picture, and was taken on March 5, 1999, using an instrument aboard Hubble called the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. It was released at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Chicago.

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American Astronomical Society
   • American Astronomical Society - Chicago Meeting
Space Telescope Science Institute
The Next Generation Space Telescope
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