NASA's space telescope has spotted stars and gas moving toward the heart of a giant, curiously shaped stellar nursery in the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud.
The outer arm of this spiral of stars and gas may provide a river-like flow of gas that is fueling star formation in the stellar nursery, known as NGC 346.
The astronomers' discovery could provide important clues as to how stars were born when the 13.8 billion-year-old galaxy was a few billion years old.
This NGC 346 is only 150 light years in diameter and contains stellar material, the mass of which is said to be equal to 50,000 Suns.
The Small Magellanic Cloud that contains NGC 346 is located 200,000 light-years away from Earth, meaning that astronomers see less light than in more distant galaxies.
The stars move at about 3,200 kilometers per hour, which means that in 11 years they travel about 320 million kilometers, or more than twice the distance between Earth and the Sun.
The Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical composition than the Milky Way, which, like the early galaxies, had not yet been enriched with heavy elements by successive generations of stars that went supernova.