Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 18, 1999
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

NGC 3603: An Active Star Cluster
Credit: B. Brandl (Cornell) et al., ISAAC, VLT, ESO

Explanation: NGC 3603 is home to a massive star cluster, thick dust pillars, and a star about to explode. The central open cluster contains about 2000 bright stars, each of which is much brighter and more massive than our Sun. Together, radiations from these stars are energizing and pushing away surrounding material, making NGC 3603 one of the most interesting HII regions known. NGC 3603 is about 20,000 light-years away, and the region shown is about 20 light-years across. Possibly most interesting about this recently released, representative-color picture are the large number of dim stars visible. These stars are less massive than our Sun, demonstrating that great numbers of low-mass stars also form in active starburst regions.

Tomorrow's picture: Magnetic North

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