NASA says it’s “like a disco wonderland for stars.” The tip of the “wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) galaxy is dazzling in pink and purples in a new view from NASA’s Great Observatories. The Small Magellanic Cloud is a small galaxy about 200,000 light-years away from our Milky Way spiral galaxy.
The colors represent wavelengths of light across a broad spectrum. X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in purple; visible light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is colored red, green and blue. Infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are also represented in red.
The gem of a spiral galaxy seen in the lower corner is actually behind this nebula. Other distant galaxies located hundreds of millions of light-years or more away can be seen sprinkled around the edge of the image.
The three telescopes highlight different aspects of this lively stellar community. Winds and radiation from massive stars located in the central, disco-ball-like cluster of stars, called NGC 602a, have swept away surrounding material, clearing an opening in the star-forming cloud.
The SMC is one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. Even though it is a small, or so-called dwarf galaxy, the SMC is so bright that it is visible to the unaided eye from the Southern Hemisphere and near the equator. Many navigators, including Ferdinand Magellan who lends his name to the SMC, used it to help find their way across the oceans.