« back to overview Nebulae Load higher resolution  (1500 x 1850 Pixel  2400 x 3000 Pixel) Object description
NGC 346 - Star forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)

Description of object:

The nebula NGC 346 in the middle of the picture has a diameter of about 200 light years and is the biggest and most active star forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a 210.000 light year distant satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. NGC 371 is another, weaker star birth region located at the left border of the picture.

The very hot, white-blue stars in the nebula's central part are just a few million years old and ionize the nebula due to their high UV radiation. NGC 346 (and also NGC 371) shows a green-blue color which is rather untypical for a star forming region. Because of the extremely high radiant power of the star cluster also oxygen atoms are being exited to light. Their green-blue light outshines the otherwise dominant red emission of the H-alpha hydrogen line.

A rare blue star cluster can be seen near the right border of the image. Such objects are very young compared to the usual billion year's old globular clusters. Its age is 100 million years at most. It still contains a lot of short-living hot blue stars because of its young age. Blue globular clusters need far more interstellar matter for their formation than common globular clusters. This makes them very rare objects.

« Object identification around NGC 346. The circle corresponds with the full moon's diameter.

Load high resolution image

A spectroscopy of NGC 346 is available here and a high-res image from the Hubble Telescope is available here.

Moon Solar System DeepSky Widefield Miscellaneous