New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope show the star cluster RCW 38 in all its glory. This image was taken during testing of the HAWK-I camera with the GRAAL adaptive optics system. It shows the cluster and its surrounding clouds of brightly glowing gas in exquisite detail, with dark tendrils of dust threading through the bright core of this young gathering of stars.
RCW 38 is an HII region containing a massive star cluster located approximately 5,500 light years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Vela (known as, the Sails). The stars were very recently formed, and are still enshrouded within the dark cloud in which they were born. The star cluster is surrounded by clouds of brightly glowing gas and is composed of several short-lived massive stars, hundreds of young stars, and many protostars.