Hubble Space Telescope captures a spectacular image of a bright pink cloud of gas and dust where massive stars are being born 160,000 light years away from Earth
- The bright cloud is called LHA 120-N 150 and is in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy orbiting the Milky Way
- NASA says the pink cloud is a scene of stellar creation and is surrounding by many young and massive stars
- Within the cloud these fledgling stars can appear as clumps of dust and gas making them difficult to spot
- NASA says astronomers can use observations from Hubble to better understand how these stars are formed
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular image showing a bright pink cloud of gas and dust where giant stars are formed.
The cloud sits on the outskirts of the star forming Tarantula Nebula in the neighbouring Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy – 160,000 light years away from Earth.
NASA says it is a scene of stellar creation and is surrounding by many young and massive stars – a ‘perfect laboratory to study the origin of massive stars’.
The cloud is called ‘LHA 120-N 150’ and contains dozens of isolated young giant stars that formed alone rather than as part of a cluster, NASA said.
This image shows a region of space called LHA 120-N150. It is a substructure of the gigantic Tarantula Nebula. The latter is the largest known stellar nursery in the local Universe. The nebula is situated more than 160 000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighbouring dwarf irregular galaxy that orbits the Milky Way
The Tarantula Nebula is the largest known stellar nursery in the local Universe and this cloud of dust captured by Hubble is a sub region of the Tarantula Nebula.
It is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which orbits the Milky Way galaxy and has had one or more close encounters in the past, possibly with the Small Magellanic Cloud.
These interactions have caused an episode of energetic star formation in our tiny neighbour — part of which is visible as the Tarantula Nebula.
Also known as 30 Doradus or NGC 2070, the Tarantula Nebula owes its name to the arrangement of bright patches that somewhat resemble the legs of a tarantula and it measures nearly 1,000 light-years across.
NASA astronomers say it, and the pink dust cloud pictured by Hubble, are the best laboratories in which to study the formation of stars, in particular massive stars.
This Tarantula Nebula has an exceptionally high concentration of massive stars – much larger than the Sun – often referred to as super star clusters.
Astronomers have studied the pink dust cloud – LHA 120-N 150 – to learn more about the environment in which massive stars form as they can form in isolation in that cloud – away from the larger nebula.
Theoretical models of the formation of massive stars suggest that they should form within clusters of stars.
Observations indicate that up to ten per cent of them also formed in isolation but they are difficult for astronomers to study properly.
The giant Tarantula Nebula with its numerous substructures is the perfect place in which to resolve this puzzle as in it massive stars can be found both as members of clusters and in isolation.
This ground-based view of the Tarantula Nebula shows the nebula in its entirety. It is the brightest region of star formation in the local Universe. Hubble’s field of view covers just a tiny spot in the upper-right quadrant of this image, though it reveals detail invisible here, including a supernova remnant
With the help of Hubble, astronomers have been trying to find out whether the isolated stars visible in the nebula truly formed alone or just moved away from their stellar siblings.
However, such a study is not an easy task; young stars, before they are fully formed — especially massive ones — look very similar to dense clumps of dust.
LHA 120-N 150 contains several dozen of these ‘clumps of dust’, NASA said.
They are a mix of unclassified sources — some probably young stellar objects and others probably just dust clumps.
Only detailed analysis and observations will reveal their true nature and that will help to finally solve the unanswered question of the origin of massive stars.
That work will need to be done by astronomers studying the images captured by Hubble in more detail, to work out exactly how the mammoth stellar objects come together.
WHAT IS THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE?
The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.
He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so – now coined the Hubble constant.
The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)
Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers.
It orbits Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude.
Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head on a dime roughly 200 miles (320km) away.
The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time
Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.
Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope.
Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same.
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