NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope recently shared an image of a small portion of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the Milky Way’s nearest neighbors. Located about 200,000 light-years from Earth, the SMC is a dwarf galaxy in which individual stars are discernable even in the most densely populated parts.
Hundreds of millions of stars are in the Small Magellanic Cloud, but this image only focuses on a small portion of them. The open cluster NGC 376 comprises these stars, and its total mass is only approximately 3,400 times that of the Sun. As the name implies, open clusters are loosely connected and sparsely populated. This separates open clusters from globular clusters, which typically have centers that are a continuous blur of brightness due to their dense star populations.
NASA said, “The data in this image come from two different astronomical investigations which relied on two of Hubble’s instruments: the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The first investigation used the ACS to explore a handful of star clusters in the Small Magellanic Cloud and helped astronomers explore topics including the abundance of low- and high-mass stars in different environments. The second investigation used both the WFC3 and ACS and aimed to answer fundamental questions about the lives of stars and help astronomers understand precisely where, when, why, and how stars form.”