The NASA photo reveals an active region of space where new stars are being born at a rapid pace. NGC 604 is one of the biggest known areas of star birth in a nearby galaxy. The nebula is located in one of the spiral arms of M33 (NGC 598), about 2.723 million light-years away.
In many ways, NGC 604 resembles similar star-forming regions found in our Milky Way, such as the Orion Nebula.
But NGC 604 is much bigger and is home to many more recently formed stars.
NASA said: “This monstrous star-birth region contains more than 200 brilliant blue stars within a cloud of glowing gases some 1,300 light-years across, nearly 100 times the size of the Orion Nebula.
“By contrast, the Orion Nebula contains just four bright central stars.
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“The bright stars in NGC 604 are extremely young by astronomical standards, having formed a mere 3 million years ago.”
Nebulas are giant clouds of dust and gas where infant stars are born. These are known as star nurseries.
In some cases, nebulas are cast out into space when a dying star goes supernova.
Most of the brightest and hottest stars in a nebula form a cluster within a cavity near the cloud’s centre.
Stellar winds churned out by these blue stars, together with supernovas, are responsible for these cavities.
The Orion Nebula contains just four bright central stars
The most massive stars in NGC 604 are as many as 120 times heavier than our Sun.
The surface temperatures of the stars also reach 39,980C or 72,000F(40,000 Kelvin).
Ultraviolet radiation streams out from these stars, giving the surrounding gas clouds a fluorescent glow.
With a bit of astronomical know-how, you might be able to see NGC 604 through a small telescope.
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The nebula sits in the galaxy M33 in the direction of the constellation Triangulum.
M33 itself is a member of the Local Group of galaxies that include the Milky Way and the Andromeda.
You can spot the galaxy at night with a pair of binoculars.
NGC 604 was first observed in 1784 by the English astronomer William Herschel.
NASA said: “Within our Local Group, only the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud exceeds NGC 604 in the number of young stars, even though the Tarantula Nebula is slightly smaller in size.
“NGC 604 provides astronomers with a nearby example of a giant star-birth region.
“Such regions are small-scale versions of more distant ‘starburst’ galaxies, which undergo an extremely high rate of star formation.”
These active galaxies are believed to have been much more common in the early days of the universe.
Supernova eruptions in the galaxies created some of the first chemical elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.
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