Butterfly of Combined Light

X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Mich./S.Oey, IR: NASA/JPL, Opti­cal: ESO/WFI/2.2-m

When NASA com­bines images from dif­fer­ent tele­scopes they cre­ate amaz­ing works of art and we learn a few things.

Explore this but­ter­fly of com­bined light, known as NGC 1929, from NASA’s Spitzer and Chan­dra space tele­scopes and ESO’s ground-based tele­scope in Chile. What shapes or sto­ries do you see? Leave a note in the com­ments below.

Star clus­ter NGC 1929 con­tains some of the most mas­sive stars known to sci­en­tists. These mas­sive stars spew intense radi­a­tion and a blis­ter­ing stel­lar wind that blow huge bub­bles in the sur­round­ing neb­ula. The mas­sive stars also end their short lives explod­ing as super­nova which fur­ther helps carve out cav­i­ties in this region. Offi­cially, the entire neb­ula is known as LHA 120-N 44, or just N 44. The vast super­bub­ble is 325 by 250 light-years across; almost a hun­dred times the dis­tance between the Sun and the near­est star. As you explore the image, look for dozens of smaller bub­bles and the faint rim of another huge bub­ble on the left side of the neb­ula. Along the edges of the super­bub­ble, new stars are forming

As beau­ti­ful as this destruc­tive scene is, we wouldn’t be able to see it quite like this with our own eyes. Astronomers com­bined the light of sev­eral tele­scopes; all observ­ing N44 in dif­fer­ent wave­lengths of light. X-rays from Chan­dra, in blue, reveal areas cre­ated by winds and shocks. Infrared data from Spitzer, in red, show where dust and cooler gas reside. Opti­cal light from ESO’s tele­scope in Chile, light we can see with our eyes, out­lines where ultra­vi­o­let radi­a­tion from the stars causes the gas to glow.

N 44 and NGC 1929 are found about 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Mag­el­lanic Cloud, a dwarf, irreg­u­lar com­pan­ion galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy.

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