December 6, 2001: Resembling curling flames from a campfire, this magnificent nebula in a neighboring galaxy is giving astronomers new insight into the fierce birth of stars, which may have been more a typical occurrence in the early universe. The glowing gas cloud, called Hubble-V, has a diameter of about 200 light-years. A faint tail of gas trailing off the top of this Hubble Space Telescope image sits opposite a dense cluster of bright stars at the bottom of the irregularly shaped nebula.
The picture 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 too packed 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.