With the use of an airborne telescope in a passenger plane, astronomers have captured a show of cosmic lights fired by stars in formation about 17,000 light-years away.
Learn how massive stars form in our Milky Way The galaxy helps scientists understand how these stars form in distant galaxies that are too far away to see them in detail.
The infrared camera for the SOFIA telescope with sensitive detectors and a powerful magnification enabled researchers to discover the big stars shortly after birth, according to a statement from NASA.
"This is the best resolution currently available using these wavelengths of infrared light," said Wanggi Lim, a scientist with the University Space Research Association of the SOFIA Science Center.
"This not only reveals areas we could not see before, but it is critical to understand the physical properties and relative age of stars and their mothers clouds," said Lim.
The gigantic celestial cloud, called W51, is made up mostly of hydrogen, a place where giant and rare stars form within the dense and invisible cloud, according to NASA.
The researchers combined SOFIA data with the other NASA observatories and found that a star could be exceptionally large to have a mass equivalent to 100 suns. If future observations confirm that she is indeed a single colossal star rather than several stellar clusters, she would be one of the stars with the most massive formation in our galaxy.
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Infrared Astronomy Observatory, is a Boeing 747 jet aircraft modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope.