Posts Tagged ‘LMC’

Sweeping Wings in a Cloud

ESA/Hubble, NASA and D. A Gouliermis. Acknowledgement: Flickr user Eedresha Sturdivant

The sweeping wings of a dragon or bat shine with the light of dozens of bright stars in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the haze surrounding this young stellar group known as NGC 2040, or LH 88. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note below.

NGC 2040 is a loose star cluster. The stars have a common birthplace in this star cloud and will drift through space together. The cluster is known by astronomers as an OB association. These groups contain 10-100 stars of O and B type stars; among the hottest in the cosmos. Usually these hot and heavy stars have short but brilliant lives. After burning out their nuclear fuel in just a few million years, these stars will probably explode as supernovae. The stars lie in a supergiant shell of gas and dust called LMC 4. The shell is created as whipping solar winds from the new stars push gas and dust outward. Supernovae explosions also blow away surrounding gas and dust triggering even more star formation. Thousands of stars may form at the dense edge of these super bubbles.

NGC 2040 is found about 160,000 light-years away in a dwarf satellite galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud. Although the small galaxy is 100 times smaller than our own Milky Way it is home to some of the largest known star-making areas.

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Ripples in an Explosion of Light


Waves of gas and dust ripple through this image of the Large Magellanic Cloud from the Herschel and Spitzer space telescopes.

Explore the curls of dust and waves of gas creating an explosion of light in this image. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

Both the ESA Herschel Space Observatory and NASA Spitzer Space Telescope see the Universe in the infrared. Infrared is a part of the spectrum of light that is just below visible light. We feel infrared light energy as heat. What these telescopes offer us is a way to see the heat of stars being born and of warm dust. And it allows astronomers to peek inside nebula to see warm objects that otherwise are blocked by thick dust in visible light.

The bright object to the left of center is called 30 Doradus or the Tarantula Nebula. This nebula is one of the largest star-making areas known to scientists. Look for other bubbles of star-formation around the image. Any bright blob is a an area of warm dust and possible new star formation.

The Large Magellanic Cloud is a small, irregular dwarf galaxy that has come alongside the Milky Way Galaxy. 30 Doradus, deep within the LMC, is found about 170,000 light-years from Earth. Both the LMC and another small companion galaxy known as the Small Magellanic Cloud can be seen in the night skies of the southern hemisphere.

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A Game of Starry Chess

Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA


Pieces of a nebular chessboard dot the scenery surrounding LH 72 in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this vast shell of gas and dust. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note below.

LH 72 is a huge shell of gas and dust within the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy near the Milky Way Galaxy. The shell of gas spans about 6,000 light-years. The nebula is one of the largest star-making regions known to astronomers. If you peek close enough, you’ll find a few massive, bright and young stars embedded in the dense rose-colored hydrogen gas cloud.

The new stars in the nebula have strong star winds that clear gas and dust from the stars. The radiation from these stars also heats up the gas and causes it to glow. As the gas is pushed away, it cools. Pockets of cooler dust ring the edges of the bubble. You can see them as the chess pieces sticking up along the edges. New stars may form in these compact clouds of dense gas and dust.

LH 72 is found about 170,000 light-years from Earth within the Large Magellanic Cloud. The dwarf galaxy and its companion, the Small Magellanic Cloud, are visible in the southern hemisphere. They were known to ancient Middle Eastern peoples who called them the Sheep. European explorers, including Ferdinand Magellan, described the star clouds during sea voyages in the early 16th century.

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Space Brains, Beans and Bubbles

Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain)

Resembling a giant brain, this image of N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is a space bubble filled with new stars.

Explore the image of N11, also known as the Bean Nebula. The pink hydrogen gas clouds, Bok globules, and pillars of gas and dust are all clues as to the true nature of the nebula. The Large Magellanic Cloud contains some of the largest star-making areas known to astronomers. N11 is one of the most active in the nearby Universe. N11 is the second largest star-making nebula in the LMC and produces some of the most massive stars known. Three generations of star clusters are found within this nebula. Look for the bright blue and yellow stars near the bottom of the image. This large cluster, called NGC 1761, appears to be the oldest while within the bean-shaped nebula itself resides the youngest cluster born out of the nebula. Between these two groups lie a tight cluster of stars. In each wave of star birth, shells of gas and dust are blown away from the new stars forming bubbles. This limits the growth of new stars in those areas but the concentration of gas and dust in other areas will create new areas where stars can form.

In the upper left lies the compact Rose Nebula. This newest area of star formation is lit up by bright stars within the nebula. Strong ultraviolet radiation from these massive, hot stars cause the rose-like petals of gas and dust of the nebula to glow.

You can also find a few background galaxies glowing through the pink nebula cloud. My favorite is the spiral galaxy near the bottom-right border of the nebula.

Angry Fish

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: Y.-H. Chu and R. M. Williams (UIUC)

To me, this image of what happens after a supernova blows up, has always looked like a piranha or some sort of angry fish. This image of N 63A from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope; that’s what astronomers call it, used to be a huge star, many times bigger than the sun. Stars like N 63A have violent lives. They live quickly and then explode with force that for a short time they outshine entire galaxies.

This supernova leftover exploded and spread its gas and dust into the space around it. This fish is more than 30 light years across. N 63A is located in a galaxy that orbits our Milky Way Galaxy. It is called the Large Magellanic Cloud and is 160,000 light years away. If you live in the southern hemisphere you can see this little galaxy hanging in the sky like a cloud. This cloud and another, called the Small Magellanic Cloud, are named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan was the first European to sail around the world in the 1500s.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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