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Hubble views aging stars inside brilliant cluster

star cluster
At the center of the most violent starburst region in the local universe lies a cluster of brilliant, massive stars, known to astronomers as Hodge 301 (lower right hand corner of this photo)   

April 2, 1999
Web posted at: 10:48 a.m. EST (1548 GMT)

(CNN) -- The Hubble Space Telescope institute this week released an image showing a cluster of brilliant, massive stars known to astronomers as Hodge 301.

Hodge 301, seen in the lower right hand corner of the image, lives inside the Tarantula Nebula, part of our nearest galactic neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud, according to the institute.

The star cluster is not the brightest, or youngest, or most populous star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula -- that honor goes to the spectacular R136. In fact, Hodge 301 is almost 10 times older than the young cluster R136, the institute said in a statement.

But many of the stars in Hodge 301 are so old that they have exploded as supernovae. These exploded stars are blasting material out into the surrounding region at speeds of almost 300 miles per second.

This high speed ejecta is plowing into the surrounding Tarantula Nebula, shocking and pressing the gas into a multitude of sheets and filaments, seen in the upper left portion of the picture.

Hodge 301 contains three so-called red supergiants -- stars that are close to the end of their evolution and are about to go supernovae, exploding and sending more shocks into the Tarantula.

The image was released as part of the Hubble Heritage Project. The program presents a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope archives on the World Wide Web on the first Thursday of each month.

Hubble images reveal dynamic seasons on Uranus
March 30, 1999
Hubble captures new portrait of a doomed star
January 7, 1999
Stars burst to life before Hubble's lens
October 21, 1997
Oooh! Ahhh! New cool pics from Hubble
June 9, 1997

Space Telescope Science Institute
Internet Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Resources
The Tarantula Nebula
Las Positas College - "Tarantula Nebula (NGC 2070)"
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