The ancients didn’t have the scientific understanding of nature that we have now. All they could do was look up at the night sky and wonder, which isn’t a bad way to spend time. Part of understanding something is naming it, and when the ancients looked up at the patterns in the stars, they gave them simple names based entirely on their appearances. That’s likely how the Greeks named the constellation Serpens: it looks like a snake, so they called it that.
The Greeks lacked astronomical telescopes, so they never saw any of the rich detail in Serpens that a new image from the European Southern Observatory reveals.
An ESO telescope captures a group of hot young stars that would outshine any Hollywood party!
At the upper left of this image is the star cluster NGC 6604, a grouping of hot young stars within a larger collection located in the sky near the much more famous Eagle Nebula (of “Pillars of Creation” fame.) The young stars, which burn bright and blue, are helping make a new generation of stars with their strong stellar winds, which condense nearby gas and dust into even more star-forming regions.
Eventually the new stars will replace the ones seen here, which, although big and bright, will quickly burn through their stellar fuel and fade. Such is the life cycle of massive stars — live fast and die young.
This image was acquired by the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. NGC 6604 is about 5,500 light-years from Earth, located in the constellation Serpens. Read more on the ESO news release here.