A star cluster and a nebula in the Southern Milky Way take center stage in a spectacular new image from the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The eye-popping photo, released today by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), shows the star-forming regions in sultry red.
Known by astronomers as NGC 3603, the star cluster (left) is known for having the highest concentration of massive stars that have been discovered in our galaxy, according to a written statement released by the observatory. As ultraviolet radiation is released by the young stars, it interacts with hydrogen gas to produce those luminous crimson clouds.
The nebula, NGC 3576, recognizable to astronomers by the curly “ram’s horn” filaments at its top, is visible on the image’s right side. The filaments are the product of stellar winds from the young stars within the nebula’s central regions, according to the statement.
The two star nurseries might look snuggled up against one another, but they’re actually light years apart. NGC 3603 is about 20,000 light-years away from Earth, and NGC 3576 is about half as far.
Watch a zoom sequence that features the star-forming regions below.