The Hubble telescope raises the debate about how stars formed in the early universe


As early scientific results emerge from the James Webb Space Telescope, we’re learning more than ever about the early universe, but it’s not just Webb helping scientists understand the universe when it was young — as the latest edition of the Hubble Space Telescope demonstrates, we also have a lot to learn from Other tools too.

Hubble researchers recently shared this image of a group of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy belonging to the Milky Way.

This small galaxy has a different chemical composition than ours, and therefore is similar to galaxies in the early universe, so studying it can help us learn about how stars were formed when the universe was still young, Digitartlends reported.

The cluster of stars, called NGC 346, is tiny at just 150 light-years across but a particularly crowded stellar nursery.

This region is full of young stars, and these stars appear to form in a spiraling structure of gas and stars that researchers have compared to a river. This may help explain why the rate of star formation is high here.

“We wouldn’t have life without stars, yet we don’t fully understand how they form,” study leader Elena Sabi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore explained in a statement.

“We have many models that make predictions, and some of those predictions are contradictory. We want to determine what regulates star formation because these are the laws we also need to understand what we see in the early universe.”

The findings are relevant to the early universe because, like early galaxies, there are relatively few heavy elements to be found in the Small Magellanic Cloud. This means that stars here burn hot and die faster than stars in our galaxy.

Seeing how stars are born in this cluster, as matter moves in a spiral formation, helps explain what might happen in the period 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

“The spiral is really a good natural way to fuel star formation from the outside towards the center of the cluster,” explained another researcher, Peter Seidler of AURA/STScI, ESA. “It’s the most efficient way that stars and the gases that fuel more star formation can move toward the center.”

Scroll to Top