This infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a population of massive stars and complex structures in the hot ionized gas that swirls around the galactic core.
Stars in the Galactic Core
These colorful stars reside at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, about 26,000 light-years from Earth. Aging red-giant stars coexist with their more plentiful younger cousins, the smaller, white, Sun-like stars, in this crowded region of our galaxy’s central hub.
NGC 604: Giant Stellar Nursery
Scattered within this cavernous nebula, cataloged as NGC 604, are over 200 newly formed hot, massive, stars. At 1,500 light-years across, this expansive cloud of interstellar gas and dust is effectively a giant stellar nursery located some three million light-years distant in the spiral galaxy, M33. The newborn stars irradiate the gas with energetic ultraviolet light stripping electrons from atoms and producing a characteristic nebular glow. The details of the nebula’s structure hold clues to the mysteries of star formation and galaxy evolution.