NGC 3603 is an open cluster located 20,000 light years from the Earth in
the constellation Carina.
NGC 3603 (Open Cluster) : Picture
The Giant Nebula, NGC 3603
(C) NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage
Thousands of sparkling young stars nestled within the giant nebula NGC 3603.
This stellar "jewel box" is one of the most massive young star clusters in the
Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 3603 is a prominent star-forming region in the Carina
spiral arm of the Milky Way, about 20,000 light-years away. This image shows a
young star cluster surrounded by a vast region of dust and gas. The image
reveals stages in the life cycle of stars. The nebula was first discovered by
Sir John Herschel in 1834. The image spans roughly 17 light-years.
NGC 3603 (Open Cluster)
Like a July 4 fireworks display a young, glittering collection of stars looks
like an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas
and dust - the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000
light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of
huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603.
This environment is not as peaceful as
it looks. Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds have blown out an
enormous cavity in the gas and dust enveloping the cluster, providing an
unobstructed view of the cluster.
Most of the stars in the cluster were
born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The
course of a star's life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age
will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for
detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the
most massive stars known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning
through their hydrogen fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in
Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues
to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant
universe. Astronomers also use massive clusters to study distant starbursts that
occur when galaxies collide, igniting a flurry of star formation. The proximity
of NGC 3603 makes it an excellent lab for studying such distant and momentous
Stellar nursery NGC 3603
NGC 3603: An Active Star Cluster
(C) B. Brandl (Cornell) et al., ISAAC, VLT, ESO
NGC 3603 is home to a massive star cluster, thick dust pillars, and a star
about to explode. The central open cluster contains about 2000 bright stars,
each of which is much brighter and more massive than our Sun. Together,
radiations from these stars are energizing and pushing away surrounding
material, making NGC 3603 one of the most interesting HII regions known.
NGC 3603 is about 20,000 light-years away, and the region shown is about
20 light-years across. Possibly most interesting about this recently released,
representative-color picture are the large number of dim stars visible.
These stars are less massive than our Sun, demonstrating that great numbers
of low-mass stars also form in active starburst regions.
Hubble image of galactic nebula NGC 3603
Sher 25: A Pending Supernova?
(C) W. Brandner (UIUC), et al., ESO, 1.54-m Telescope, Chile
No supernova has ever been predicted. These dramatic stellar explosions
that destroy stars and disperse elements that compose people and planets
are not so well understood that astronomers can accurately predict when
a star will explode - yet. Perhaps Sher 25 will be the first. Sher 25,
designated by the arrow, is a blue supergiant star located just outside
the star cluster and emission nebula NGC 3603. Sher 25 lies in the center
of an hourglass shaped nebula much like the one that surrounds the last
bright supernova visible from Earth: SN1987a. Now the hourglass shaped
rings around SN1987a were emitted before that blue supergiant exploded.
Maybe Sher 25 has expelled these bipolar rings in a step that closely precedes
a supernova. If so, Sher 25 may be within a few thousand years of its spectacular
Zooming in on NGC 3603, the cosmic factory where stars form frantically
from the nebula's extended clouds of gas and dust. Located 22,000 light-years
away from the Sun, it is the closest region of this kind known in our galaxy,
providing astronomers with a local test bed for studying intense star formation
processes, very common in other galaxies, but hard to observe in detail
because of their large distance. Credit: ESO/A. Fujii/Digitized Sky Survey
2. Music by John Dyson.