Most Beautiful Cradle of Newborn Stars [Hubble Photo]

First Posted: Jan 14, 2013 11:23 PM EST

This cradle of newborn stars, a starcluster known as NGC 602, is located not far from our Milky Way galaxy, near the outskirts of one of the several small satellite galaxies circling our own galaxy. The Small Magellanic Cloud is some 200 thousand light-years away. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, the 5 million year young stars of NGC 602 are featured in this breathtaking Hubble image of the region. Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in the sharp Hubble view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602. 

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