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NGC 604: A Mother of a Stellar Nursery

Like fireworks, but better.

Image courtesy X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Tuellmann et al.; Optical: NASA/AURA/STScI

Few places in all the universe capture the grandeur and sheer scale of space as effectively as a stellar nursery -- a giant cloud in which gas and dust contract to form new stars. And NGC 604, located in M33, aka the Triangulum Galaxy, is a whopper, a massive emission nebula spanning 1,500 light-years [source: NASA]. That's 8.8 quadrillion miles (14.2 quadrillion kilometers) -- over 350 times the distance separating us from our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri. We recommend finding a good, distant parking space from which to view it.

About 3 million years ago, NGC 604 started collapsing into dense pockets and popping off A LOT of stars -- enough stars, in fact, to constitute a globular cluster. Globular clusters are gravitationally close-knit, roughly spherical collections of 10,000 to 1 million stars, all sharing the same approximate age and initial composition [sources: Martin; NASA; NASA; NASA].

While there, pop in some Pink Floyd and get lost in the nebular glow as more than 200 newborn, hot, massive, stars strip the electrons from unsuspecting atoms [sources: Martin; NASA; NASA; NASA].

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