Ghostly eyes peer out of this star-forming region called NGC 2080 near the 30 Doradus nebula. Astronomers also know the nebula as the “Ghost Head Nebula” because of its phantom-like appearance in earth-bound telescopes. Two bright areas made up of blobs of hot hydrogen gas form the ‘eyes’ of the nebula. A1, on the left, contains a single massive star while A2 contains several stars hidden in the dust. The stars of A1 and A2 are carving out hollow areas in the gas. We are actually looking inside the bowl-shaped area created by the strong solar winds blowing from the new stars. Astronomers are interested in areas like NGC 2080 because it gives them a glimpse of how different stars form.
Zoom into the area around A2 and you can see more detail than A1. The stars in both areas were formed within the last 10,000 years. Look for the green and red colors in the nebula. These are caused by atoms of oxygen and hydrogen that glow because of the intense radiation from the hot stars.
The Ghost Head Nebula and 30 Doradus are found in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The LMC is a dwarf galaxy about 168,000 light-years away from Earth. A light-year is the distance that light travels in a year; about 6 trillion miles. The LMC and a smaller dwarf galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud are companions to our Milky Way. 30 Dorados is the largest star-forming area in our local group of galaxies.