Hubble pictures show stormy birth of stars

THE STORMY birth of thousands of massive stars 170,000 light- years from Earth has been captured in composite pictures by Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope.

Images taken in infrared and visible light show that powerful radiation and high-speed material unleashed by large adult stars residing in the hub of the 30 Doradus Nebula are triggering a new burst of star birth around them.

The pictures show that the fledgling stars are causing havoc. Jets of material streaming from one developing star, like the top blowing off a volcano, are slamming into surrounding dust and gas, which is already being pounded by similar jets from other stars, causing a glow whose pattern changes.

The black areas in the picture are unphotographed areas, caused when the Telescope's orbit did not allow it to focus on that section of the sky.

The events occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Nolan Walborn of the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore said: "The Hubble images of 30 Doradus reveal characteristics of massive star birth never before seen so clearly, and some of them not at all."

The source of the powerful cosmic action is R136, a central cluster of massive stars two million years old, which are ten times hotter, and 100 times larger, than the Sun. They shed bubbles of material at speeds of thousands of miles per second, which collide with surrounding dense clouds consisting mostly of cold molecular hydrogen.

Some clouds collapse, resulting in a second generation of stars. Astronomers believe there are thousands of fledgling stars in the 30 Doradus.