W49A is a star forming region located about 36,000 light years from Earth, across the Milky Way. It is nearly 100 times brighter than the Orion Nebula, but is so obscured by dust that it is much more difficult to observe. Prolific star formation is occurring in the region, similar to that found in “starburst” galaxies, which form stars 100 times faster than the Milky Way.

W49A contains an extremely dense star cluster. The region, about 10 light years long, holds nearly 100,000 stars, and more are forming. The density may protect the cluster from gravitational tides that usually quickly dismantle such structures. A few billion years in the future the area could become as dense as a globular cluster.

Image from ESO, information from Harvard.