Upon reading that tale as a child, I was captivated by the idea of living within a star cluster. No wonder I use, in the banner of this blog, the stunning image of NGC 3603, one of the most massive star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located 20,000 light-years away, in the Carina spiral arm, it's a veritable jewel box of hot, blue-white stars. Our sun, by comparison, is a relative hermit out here in the galactic suburbs.
NGC 3603 is one of my favorite Hubble Telescope pictures, but it now has some competition. This past fall Hubble's Wide Field Camera imaged a new star cluster bursting into life within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite of the Milky Way. Only a few million years old (mere days compared to the Earth's age), the sapphire-like stars―several over 100 times more massive than our Sun―are now blowing off their dusty cocoon and brilliantly shining.
Happy Winter Solstice!