Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud

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NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud


A satellite
of the Milky Way, the Small Magellanic Cloud
is a wonder of the southern sky, a mere
210,000 light-years distant in the constellation

Found among the SMC's clusters and nebulae NGC 346 is
a star forming region about 200 light-years across,
pictured above by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Exploring NGC 346,
astronomers have identified
a population of embryonic stars
strung along
the dark, intersecting dust lanes visible here on the right.

Still collapsing within their natal clouds,
the stellar infants' light is reddened by
the intervening dust.

A small, irregular galaxy, the SMC itself
represents a type of galaxy more common in the early Universe.

But these small galaxies are
thought to be a building blocks
for the larger galaxies present today.

Within the SMC, stellar nurseries like NGC 346 are also thought
to be similar to those found in the
early Universe.

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