Tarantula Nebula

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Hubble captures fireworks

How a theist can look at all the fantastic images Hubble has offered humanity and somehow not feel insignificant in the Universe is one of the greatest feats of arrogance there is.

This gorgeous star cluster doesn’t need a holiday to set off fireworks. Officially called NGC 3603, the small community of young stars is located about 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.

Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds from the cluster’s stars shoved away the cloud of gas and dust in which the stars formed, giving the Hubble Space Telescope’s new Wide Field Camera 3 a clear view. Hubble captured this image in August 2009 and December 2009, just a few months after the new camera was installed, in both visible and infrared light. The image shows a sharper view of the stars than an earlier image taken with Hubble’s NICMOS infrared camera in 2007, and traces sources of sulfur, hydrogen and iron.

Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time, but age differently depending on their masses. Clusters like NGC 3603 give astronomers a lab to study stars’ life cycles in detail, as well as a window into the origin of massive star formation in the distant universe. NGC 3603’s stars are among the most massive known. After they burn through their fuel, these stars will end their lives in spectacular supernova explosions.

Via Wired.