January 17, 2013
Hubble Space Telescope Snaps Image Of Large Magellanic Cloud’s Hidden Treasure
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineThe Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), an irregular galaxy that shares some features with spiral galaxies, is known for its array of star-forming regions. One of those regions, LHA 120-N 11 (N11), captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, offers proof that the LMC is producing noticeable signs that stellar nurseries within are still hard at work.
The LMC is in an ideal position for astronomers to study star formation. It lies close enough to study in detail and lies nearly face-on over us. Because of this, it offers us a bird´s eye view, neither outshone by too many stars, nor obscured by the dust of the Milky Way´s center.
N11 is a relatively bright region of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. NGC 1769, which can be seen near the center of the above image, and NGC 1763, which appears to the right, are among the brightest regions.
The center of the image shows a dark finger of dust that blocks out much of the light. These dust clouds, which are made of heavy, complex elements, are the building blocks of rocky planets, much like the Earth. Much finer than household dust, these dusty clouds are more like smoke, and consist of material expelled from previous generations of stars that have died.
Josh Lake, an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut, identified the data in the Hubble image for the Hubble´s Hidden Treasures image processing competition. The contest invited members of the public to hunt through vast archives of Hubble data and turn them into breathtaking images.
Lake won first prize with an image of NGC 1763. He produced a stunning image by contrasting the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen in N11. The above image combines the data he identified with additional exposures taken in blue, green and near infrared light.