magellanic cloud nebula

Polar Mapping of Structures in the Universe.

This image represents a flight through Space and Time. We start (from top to bottom) at the most distant Galaxies seen when the Universe was very young (Hubble Deep Field), then an interacting pair of Galaxies, the Magellanic Cloud, a Star Cluster, two Planetary Nebulae (Helix and Cat’s Eye) and finally at the bottom a Human Eye. Polar mapping is used in order to ‘unwrap’ Spherical objects into a horizontal band. Each pair of objects is joined together by a similar Structure represented as a bright horizontal band. The three bands then correspond to the Galactic Center of a Galaxy in the Hubble Field and the Interacting Galaxy, the Center of a Bright Star in the Magellanic Cloud and a Star Cluster and the last band corresponds to the White Dwarf in the Helix and Cat’s Eye Nebulae.

This is one of the largest and most prolific star-forming regions near our Milky Way. Located about 160,000 light years away in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, the Tarantula nebula is sculpted by searing radiation and strong winds that comes from the massive stars at its center. If fact, it is estimated that at least 40 of these huge stars have gone supernova within the last 10,000 years including the most recent one, SN 1987a.

(Composite Image from Multiple Data Sources. Hubble Space Telescope, ESO, Amateur Data. Image Assembly and Processing : Robert Gendler and Roberto Colombari)

A Gegenschein Lunar Eclipse : Is there anything interesting to see in the direction opposite the Sun? One night last month, there were quite a few things. First, the red-glowing orb on the lower right of the featured image is the full moon, darkened and reddened because it has entered Earth’s shadow. Beyond Earth’s cone of darkness are backscattering dust particles orbiting the Sun that standout with a diffuse glow called the gegenschein, visible as a faint band rising from the central horizon and passing behind the Moon. A nearly horizontal stripe of green airglow is also discernable just above the horizon, partly blocked by blowing orange sand. Visible in the distant sky as the blue dot near the top of the image is the star Sirius, while the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy arches up on the image left and down again on the right. The fuzzy light patches just left of center are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Red emission nebulas too numerous to mention are scattered about the sky, but are labelled in a companion annotated image. In the image foreground is the desolate Deadvlei region of the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, featuring the astrophotographer himself surveying a land and sky so amazing that he described it as one of the top experiences of his life. via NASA

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Most massive collection of giant stars ever revealed by Hubble

“The single greatest is R136a1: 250 times our Sun’s mass. Nine total stars over 100 solar masses, as well as dozens over 50, are found inside. These nine largest stars, combined, outshine the Sun by 30,000,000 times. All will die in catastrophic supernovae, creating massive black holes when they do.”

When we look for the brightest, bluest, most massive individual stars, we’re restricted to looking nearby, since it’s impossible to resolve individual stars at distances that extend much beyond our own galaxy. So how surprising is it, then, when the most massive stars we’ve ever found aren’t in our own galaxy, nor in any of the monster galaxies we’ve found nearby, but in a small, satellite dwarf of our own: the Large Magellanic Cloud? The tidal disruption of the Milky Way causes a huge spike in star formation among the neutral gas, and has led to an incredibly rich region of new stars, including dozens of stars over 50 solar masses, nine over 100, four over 150 and the most massive one, R136a1, coming in at an incredible 250 times the mass of our Sun. It’s the most massive collection of hot, young stars in the entire known Universe.