Nearly 200 000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colours, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighbourhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.
The LMC is in an ideal position for astronomers to study the phenomena surrounding star formation. It lies in a fortuitous location in the sky, far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way's centre. It is also close enough to study in detail (less than a tenth of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy), and lies almost face-on to us, giving us a bird's eye view.
LHA 120-N 11 (known as N11 for short) is a particularly bright region of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. NGC 1769 (in the centre of this image) and NGC 1763 are among the brightest parts.
In the centre of this image, a dark finger of dust blots out much of the light. While nebulae are mostly made of hydrogen, the simplest and most plentiful element in the Universe, dust clouds are home to heavier and more complex elements, which go on to form rocky planets like the Earth. Much finer than household dust (it is more like smoke), this interstellar dust consists of material expelled from previous generations of stars as they died.
The data in this image were identified by Josh Lake, an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut, USA, in the image processing competition. The competition invited members of the public to dig out unreleased scientific data from Hubble's vast archive, and to process them into stunning images.
Josh Lake won first prize in the competition with an contrasting the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen in N11. The image above combines the data he identified with additional exposures taken in blue, green and near infrared light.
ESA/Hubble Information Centre: http://www.spacetelescope.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Rebel planets orbit their stars the wrong way around – and prenatal turmoil may be to blame
The Chinese space agency's newest space launch will test atmospheric re-entry technology ahead of a more complex mission to collect moon rocks in 2017
A comet making its first trip in from the Oort cloud was caught on camera before a near miss with four spacecraft currently orbiting the Red Planet
An ingenious technique reveals data that's been lost for 11 billion years
Saturn’s battered moon Mimas may have a thin global ocean buried miles beneath its icy surface, raising the prospect of another "life-friendly" habitat in the solar system, scientists said on Thursday.
"There is a lot new to be learned by seeing the deposits," scientist says of icy find
Software that can identify plumes emanating from comet and moon surfaces is the next step toward landers that can explore planets autonomously
A pair of spacewalking NASA astronauts hustled through an electrical repair job outside the International Space Station on Wednesday, then began work to prepare the outpost for new commercial space taxis.
Two NASA spacewalkers are working to replace a faulty voltage regulator in the space station solar power grid and make other upgrades
The space agency is developing two separate missions to learn how to exploit stores of water on the lunar surface