Astronomers using the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory – the most complex telescope ever built – have recently collected this image of the Small Magellanic Cloud, an irregular-shaped dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way.
This photograph also features infrared data collected by the NASA
Spitzer Space Telescope. Together, the two observatories provide an in-depth view into the stellar formation going on inside the structure.
As evidenced above, gas is unevenly distributed throughout the SMC, resulting in areas that form more stars than other regions can. Usually, astronomers refer to the diagonal structure on the right as the bar of stellar formation, while the left-hand structure is known as the dwarf galaxy's wing.
The color codes in this image feature data from both telescopes. Spitzer indicates the warmest areas, in shades close to blue, whereas Herschel shows the coldest regions, in shades of red and orange.