The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope located at the Paranal Observatory, Chile, has captured a stunning vista of an emission nebula known as LHA 120-N55, or N55 for short. The nebula is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way orbiting roughly 200,000 light years away.
The VLT is composed of four 8.2-m (27-ft) Unit Telescopes that can be supplemented by a further four 1.8-m (5.9-ft) mobile auxiliary telescopes. By observing nebulae such as N55, astronomers hope to gain a deeper understanding of the processes that govern the creation of new generations of stars.
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The nebula itself is located within a "superbubble" of the satellite galaxy known as LMC 4. The void was formed when powerful stellar winds paired with the supernovae of numerous stars embedded within the cosmic structure carved out a vast cavities in the dust and gas left over from the star creation process. Some time in the next several billion years a similar event will rip apart N55, redistributing cosmic gas and dust as the nebula's constituent stars die in spectacular supernovae.
N55 managed to withstand the powerful forces that shaped the LMC 4 superbubble and remain within the cavity. The vivid blue stars observed illuminating the nebula were borne hundreds of millions of years after the shell was created. The nebula is seen to glow with a pinkish hue as generated as light from the young stars strips hydrogen atoms saturating the surrounding clouds of their electrons.
Scroll down to view an ESO video highlighting the position of N55 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.