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 closest neighbors. Located about 200,000 light-years from Earth, the SMC is a dwarf galaxy in which individual stars are observable even in the most densely populated regions.
Hundreds of millions of stars are in the Small Magellanic Cloud, but this image only focuses on a small part of it. The open star cluster NGC 376 includes these stars and its total mass is only about 3400 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 population.
NASA said, “The data in this image comes from two different astronomical surveys that relied on two Hubble instruments: the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The first survey used the ACS to explore a handful of star clusters in the Small Magellanic Cloud and helped astronomers investigate topics such as the abundance of low- and high-mass stars in different environments. The second study, using both WFC3 and ACS, aimed to answer fundamental questions about stellar life and help astronomers understand exactly where, when, why and how stars form.”