The European Southern Observatory (ESO) captured an incredible photo of the star cluster NGC 3603 and NGC 3576 nebula in the early morning hours. The cluster and nebula shine with about the same brightness in the photo below, but are actually separated by 10,000 light-years.

star cluster

ESO officials explain what we see in the photo above.

“NGC 3603 is a very bright star cluster and is famed for having the highest concentration of massive stars that have been discovered in our galaxy so far,” ESO officials said in a statement.

“At the center lies a Wolf-Rayet multiple star system, known as HD 97950. Wolf-Rayet stars are at an advanced stage of stellar evolution, and start off with around 20 times the mass of the sun.”

The wispy looking red clouds in the photo are called HII regions. They shine brightly “because of the interaction of ultraviolet radiation given off by the brilliant hot young starts with the hydrogen gas clouds,” according to the ESO.

These regions can measure several hundred light years in diameter. In fact, the HII surrounding NGC 3603 is the biggest one in our galaxy.

The NGC 3576 nebula also shines brightly on the right side of the image above. You see the two dark clouds near the two of the nebula? Those are called Bok globules and ESO officials say they could be “potential sites for the future formation of new stars.”

I’ll leave you with this image. It’s a wide view image showing the star cluster and nebula.

Image credit: ESO

wide view nebula and cluster

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