A Star Is Born

Actually, a whole lot of them. This massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus (aka Tarantula) Nebula, a turbulent star-birthing region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in our galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.

Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Some are 100 times more massive than our sun. These huge stars are destined to explode like a string of firecrackers when they become supernovas in a few million years.

This picture, taken in ultraviolet, visible, and red light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the stars’ birth and evolution.

The brilliant stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and strong stellar winds (streams of charged particles), which scour away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born. The image shows a  what looks like a landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys, as well as a dark region in the center that looks a bit like the outline of a Christmas tree. In addition to sculpting the gaseous “terrain,” these brilliant stars are also helping create a new generation of offspring. When the stellar winds hit dense walls of gas, they create shock waves which can create a new wave of star birth.

This picture was put together from observations taken in October, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; the red from fluorescing hydrogen.

Image Credit: NASA

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