Snapshot: Congratulations! It’s a litter of newborn stars

Inside the star cluster NGC 602, new stars are forming thanks to a mix of gas and gravity.
By | Published: March 10, 2021 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Within the Small Magellanic Cloud — a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way — hides the star cluster NGC 602. This stellar nursery formed when a gas cloud collapsed into clumps due to gravity, giving birth to a plethora of new stars. These young, blue stars are slowing eroding away the cosmic material that surrounds them, creating the glorious glowing pillars of material you see above.

This image, which was released in 2007, has helped astronomers learn more about both NGC 602 and star formation in general. Further research on the cluster also revealed that not all of its stars were born at the same time. Based on data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope, NGC 602 likely started forming new stars some 60 million years ago — and it was still giving birth as recently as a million years ago.