Not so long ago, astronomers thought of the Milky Way’s central bulge as an old folks home where mostly ancient stars congregated and slowly moved about. But more recent observations, including this spectacular view captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and an analysis of about 10,000 suns in the bulge reveal a much more dynamic environment where stars of various ages move about at different speeds. The faster, younger stars may have been captured as the Milky Way cannibalised smaller galaxies, mingling with older, slower-moving suns.
At first glance, this cosmic kaleidoscope of purple, blue and pink offers a strikingly beautiful — and serene — snapshot of the cosmos. However, this multi-coloured haze actually marks the site of two colliding galaxy clusters, forming a single object known as MACS J0416.1-2403 (or MACS J0416 for short), 4.3 billion light-years away from Earth.
In this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, we see a young star breaking out. The golden veil of light cloaks a young stellar object known only as IRAS 14568-6304 in the Circinus molecular cloud complex. This stellar newborn is ejecting gas at supersonic speeds and eventually will have cleared a hole in the cloud, allowing it to be easily visible to the outside universe.