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A young stellar nursery cuddled by glowing clouds

The star cluster spotted by Hubble. The blue colour is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen. Image credit: NASA/ESA

WASHINGTON (BNS): A bunch of brilliant, icy blue stars cuddled by warm, glowing clouds in a galaxy near our Milky Way has been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The massive, young stellar nursery – R 136 – is located in the 30 Doradus Nebula.

Doradus is a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of Milky Way. LMC is located 170,000 light-years away and is a member of the Local Group of Galaxies including the Milky Way.

In the images taken by Hubble between October 20 and 27, many of the diamond-shaped icy blue stars can be seen. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun and are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years, NASA said.

The stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and hurricane-force stellar winds (streams of charged particles), which are etching away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which they were born.

Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, the brilliant stars can also help create a successive generation of offspring. When the winds hit dense walls of gas, they create shocks, which may be generating a new wave of star birth, the space agency said.

The newly-captured star cluster is a rare, nearby example of many super star clusters that formed in the distant, early Universe, when star birth and galaxy interactions were more frequent.

Previous Hubble observations have shown astronomers that super star clusters in faraway galaxies are ubiquitous, NASA said.

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