In the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, in the constellation of Puppis, a half dozen vast “bubbles” of hydrogen gas, heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from nearby O-type stars, provide spectacular backdrops for stellar nurseries where new stars are being born. This glowing cloud, known as SH 2-305, is an emission nebula, or HII region, illuminated by at least two O-type stars and probably several others. Such stars live fast and die young, shining a million times brighter than the Sun with up to around 90 times the mass. This image was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Cosmic Gems programme, an initiative to gather engaging imagery when science observations are not possible.
A team of researchers has observed the brightest, ultra metal-poor star ever discovered. (To astronomers, metals are elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.) The star is therefore a rare relic from the Milky Way’s formative years. As such, it offers astronomers a precious opportunity to explore the origin of the first stars that sprung to life within our galaxy.