A spectacular new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a stunning space bubble filled with baby stars.
The new space bubble image highlights an area called N11 – a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters within our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This energetic star-forming region is the second largest known to date, and one of the most active in our galactic neighbor.
Bubbles in space
The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright nebula bubbles, though N11 is one of the most magnificent, Hubble officials said.
Astronomers took the new N11 photo using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, which was repaired in May 2009 during NASA's last service call to the iconic space telescope. The image is actually a mosaic of five different views observed by Hubble, researchers said.
Officially known as LHA 120-N 11, N11 is one of many nebulas catalogued in 1956 by American astronomer Karl Henize, who later became a NASA astronaut. The object's characteristic shape earned it a nickname as the "Bean Nebula."
N11's billowing pink clouds of glowing gas and the dramatic and colorful features visible in the burgeoning nebula are telltale signs of star-formation. The nebula is a well-studied patch of space that is spread across more than 1,000 light-years and has produced some of the most massive stars currently known.
That star-formation bonanza actually holds the key to the N11 nebula's gossamer bubble look.
Three successive generations of stars, each forming further away from N11's center than the last, have created shells of gas and dust that were later blown away from their parent stars. This created the dazzling ring shapes that are so prominent in the Hubble image.
Star nurseries up close
Other shapes that are found in the high-resolution image include the red bloom of a different nebula – called LHA 120-N 11A – in the upper left. The rose-like petals of gas and dust in this nebula are illuminated by radiation from the massive hot stars at its center.
N11A is relatively compact and dense, and is home to some of the most recent star development in the region.
Other star clusters, including NGC 1761 at the bottom of the image, can also be spotted. NGC 1761 encompasses a group of massive hot, young stars that emit intense ultraviolet radiation out into the cosmos.
By studying these busy stellar nurseries, astronomers can understand more about how stars are born and the details of their ultimate development and lifespan.
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