Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Tour of Star Cluster NGC 346 | James Webb Space Telescope

A Tour of Star Cluster NGC 346 | James Webb Space Telescope

This video tours areas of NGC 346, one of the most dynamic star-forming regions in nearby galaxies. 

NGC 346, a star cluster that lies within a nebula, is located 210,000 light years away. It resides within the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy close to our Milky Way. 

New findings from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveal the presence of a much more intricate network of gas and dust structures than previously discovered in the area. Within a plume of gas is cold molecular hydrogen, which provides a perfect environment for young stars to form, some of which can be seen in the image. These young stars generate energy that heats the gas, energizing and splitting the molecular hydrogen. This effectively carves rough ridges into the gas. Another area appears to show the head of a dragon, spitting out balls of hot gas. Its “eye” and the balls of gas are areas of active star formation, which will continue to change the environment around it. The wisps seen in the image are more evidence of that environmental change. Winds from nearby stars are blowing away material that surrounds still-forming stars, leaving these small structures behind. Around the arc, we see curly ribbons of glowing gas that outline the cold molecular gas of the region. These many pillars of creation show how pervasive the stellar erosion is in the region.

Eventually, over millions of years, the mixture of energized and dense hydrogen will give way to thousands of stars and far more of these filamentary structures.

Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute

Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Release Date: Jan. 11, 2023

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