In the Small Magellanic Cloudthe Hubble Space Telescope found primitive spiral stars belonging to the massive star cluster called NGC 346.
This can be considered a discovery of how stars are born and how they feed on gas.
The Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical composition than the Milky Way, making it similar to galaxies found in the younger universe, when heavier elements were scarcer. Because of this, the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud burn hotter and thus run out of fuel faster than in our Milky Way.
“Stars are the machines that sculpt the universe. We wouldn’t have life without stars, and yet we don’t fully understand how they form,” explained study leader Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “We have several models that make predictions, and some of these predictions are contradictory. We want to determine what is regulating the star formation process, because these are the laws we need to understand what we see in the early universe as well.”
Just 150 light-years across, NGC 346 has a mass of 50,000 Suns.
Learning how stars form in the Small Magellanic Cloud offers a new twist on how a star-birthing firestorm may have occurred early in the universe’s history, when it was experiencing a “baby boom” some 2 to 3 thousand years ago. million years after the Big Bang (the universe is now 13.8 billion years old).