A satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is a wonder of the southern sky, a mere 210,000 light-years distant in the constellation Tucana.
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. Astronomers have identified a population of embryonic stars strung along the dark, intersecting dust lanes visible here on the right. Still collapsing within their clouds, the stellar infants’ light is reddened by the intervening dust.
Small galaxies like the SMC — and the stellar nurseries within them — are thought to be building blocks for the larger galaxies present today.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI