Image Credit: ESO

A stellar nursery comes to life in this image, taken by the Wide Field Imager situated aboard the ESO's 2.2-Meter Telescope. This so-called stellar nursery, dubbed NGC 3324, can be found approximately 7,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Carina.

Like many nebulae of its type, NGC 3324 continues to be shaped by the whims of the very energetic, newly-formed stars in its heart. As powerful ultraviolet radiation streams from the surface of said stars, parts of the nebular cloud from which they came are set alight, triggering a mechanism called ionization, whereby atoms are transformed into a more energetic state of existence.

Since NGC 3324 lurks on the outskirts of the large and spectacular Carina Nebula, there's a wide variety of materials available to the stars, ultimately giving the nebula a plethora of colorful dimensions. Additionally, the close proximity likely triggered a starburst phase many millions of years ago. It, in turn, led to the formation of the high-mass stars seen front and center in the ESO's image. More from the research team:

See a larger image here.

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