Resembling curling flames from a campfire, this magnificent nebula in a neighboring galaxy is giving astronomers new insight into the fierce birth of stars as it may have more commonly happened in the early universe. The glowing gas cloud, called Hubble-V, has a diameter of about 200 light-years. A faint tail of nebulosity trailing off the top of the image sits opposite a dense cluster of bright stars at the bottom of the irregularly shaped nebula. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's resolution and ultraviolet sensitivity reveals a dense knot of dozens of ultra-hot stars nestled in the nebula, each glowing 100,000 times brighter than our Sun. These youthful 4-million-year-old stars are too distant and crowded together to be resolved from ground-based telescopes. The small, irregular host galaxy, called NGC 6822, is one of the Milky Way's closest neighbors and is considered prototypical of the earliest fragmentary galaxies that inhabited the young universe. The galaxy is 1.6 million light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.
The Hubble-V image data was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) by two science teams: C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University and collaborators, and Luciana Bianchi of Johns Hopkins University and Osservatorio Astronomico, Torinese, Italy, and collaborators. This color image was produced by The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI). A Hubble image of Hubble-X, another intense star-forming region in NGC 6822, was released by The Heritage Team in January 2001.
Acknowledgment: C. R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University) and L. Bianchi (Johns Hopkins University and Osservatorio Astronomico, Torinese, Italy)