February 2011 — Stellar nursery NGC 3603

NGC 3603 is a starburst region: a cosmic factory where stars form frantically from the nebula’s extended clouds of gas and dust. Located 22 000 light-years away from the Sun, it is the closest region of this kind known in our galaxy, providing astronomers with a local testbed for studying star formation.

The image, obtained with the FORS instrument attached to one of the four 8.2-metre VLT Unit Telescopes at Cerro Paranal, Chile, is a three-colour combination of exposures acquired through visible and nearinfrared filters. This image portrays a wider field around the stellar cluster and reveals the rich texture of the surrounding clouds of gas and dust.

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