Star Foundry, Small Magellanic Cloud

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One of the most dynamic and intricately detailed star-forming regions in space is located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a diffuse, irregular galaxy orbiting our own Milky Way, slowly succumbing to its gravitational force and an eventual union with it. At the present time, it is about 210,000 light-years away, and is visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere.


At the center of the region is a brilliant star cluster called NGC 346, containing dozens of hot, blue, high-mass stars, more than half of the known high-mass stars in the entire galaxy. A myriad of smaller, compact clusters is also visible throughout the region. A dramatic structure of arched, ragged filaments with a distinct ridge surrounds the cluster.


A torrent of radiation from the cluster’s hot stars eats into denser areas creating a fantasy sculpture of dust and gas. The dark, intricately beaded edge of the ridge contains several small dust globules that point back towards the central cluster, like windsocks caught in a gale.


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