© NASA/ESA and A.Nota (STScI/ESA).
Gravity and friction cause the coalescence of massive gas clouds into compact stars. This image, recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows intricate details of the star-forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. At the center of the region is a brilliant star cluster called "NGC 346," surrounded by dynamic clouds of dust and gas. Energetic outflows and radiation from hot young stars are eroding the dense outer portions of the star-forming region, formerly known as N66, exposing new stellar nurseries. The diffuse fringes of the nebula prevent the energetic outflows from streaming directly away from the cluster, leaving instead a trail of filaments marking the swirling path of the outflows. (Unit: 3)