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Space 'fireworks' sparkle in eye-popping telescope view of star birth

ALMA and Hubble teamed up for a festive view of a star cluster just in time for July 4.

ALMA and Hubble captured star cluster G286.21+0.17 in the act of formation.
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Y. Cheng et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble

Star cluster G286.21+0.17, a place of active star birth, might not have a lovely name, but it's sure beautiful in the eyes of telescopes.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile teamed up with the Hubble Space Telescope to create a mosaic of the star cluster that makes it look like a cosmic fireworks show full of purple streamers and sizzling stars.

The view of G286.21+0.17 gives us a glimpse of what the birthplace of our own sun might have looked like. "These clusters are the building blocks of galaxies, but their formation from dense molecular clouds is still largely a mystery," the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) said in a release on Thursday.

"This illustrates how dynamic and chaotic the process of star birth is," said theoretical astrophysicist Jonathan Tan of Chalmers University in Sweden and the University of Virginia. "We see competing forces in action: gravity and turbulence from the cloud on one side, and stellar winds and radiation pressure from the young stars on the other." Tan is a co-author of a paper on the cluster published on Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal.

The colorful image is a composite of 750 ALMA radio observations and nine Hubble infrared images. ALMA's eyes are responsible for the purple, which highlights the cluster's molecular clouds, and Hubble provides the view of the glittering stars and dust glowing in shades of red and yellow.

Humans on Earth are pretty talented when it comes to making fireworks, but it's hard to top the kaleidoscopic wonders of the cosmos.