A superbubble holding a nebula called LHA 120-N55 is the center of a stunning new photograph taken by astronomers. This massive gas cloud, centered on a group of young, hot blue stars, is lighted by energy from the new stellar bodies within the formation.
Emission nebulae may be thought of as stellar nurseries, where new stars are being born. The most massive of these stars burn so hot their surfaces are colored blue or white. Astronomers frequently study emission nebulae in an effort to learn more about how stars form within these regions.
The glowing cloud of gas, popularly known as N55, sits in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way roughly 163,000 light-years from Earth. This nebula makes up one part of a superbubble shell LMC4, a void of gas and dust, stretching hundreds of light years from one end to another.
The Very Large Telescope in Chile, managed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), was utilized to record this exciting new image.
Superbubbles are created in locations where stellar blasts from supernovae act in tandem with fierce winds from young stars, forming voids where matter is rare. It is within one of these bubbles where N55 still sits today, a lone survivor of a mighty stellar purge.
"The recent rise of a new population of stars also explains the evocative colors surrounding the stars in this image. The intense light from the powerful, blue-white stars is stripping nearby hydrogen atoms in N55 of their electrons, causing the gas to glow in a characteristic pinkish color in visible light," the European Southern Observatory reported on its website.
Only a few million years ago, LH 72, a group of highly energetic white and blue stars, was born near N55. The stars are seen in the new image, although they are too young to have played a part in the formation of the superbubble.
The length of a star's life is determined solely by its mass, with the largest stars existing for the shortest period of time. In a few million years, the most massive stars within N55 will erupt in supernova explosions. These events will result in the formation of a bubble within a bubble, spreading stellar material throughout the void. This process is just one stage of the cycle by which stars are born, live out their lives and die, distributing material for a new generation of stars, planets, and potentially, life.