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NGC 371
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The Rose-red Glow of Star Formation

eso1111a.jpg
Credit ESO

The vivid red cloud in this new image from ESO's Very Large Telescope is a region of glowing hydrogen surrounding the star cluster NGC 371. This stellar nursery lies in our neighbouring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud.
The object dominating this image may resemble a pool of spilled blood, but rather than being associated with death, such regions of ionised hydrogen - known as HII regions - are sites of creation with high rates of recent star birth. NGC 371 is an example of this; it is an open cluster surrounded by a nebula. The stars in open clusters all originate from the same diffuse HII region, and over time the majority of the hydrogen is used up by star formation, leaving behind a shell of hydrogen such as the one in this image, along with a cluster of hot young stars.

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