Very Large Telescope spies colorful nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud
The European SouthernObservatory's Very Large Telescope located at the ParanalObservatory, Chile, has captured a stunning vista of an emissionnebula known as LHA 120-N55, or N55 for short. The nebula is locatedin the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Wayorbiting roughly 200,000 light years away.
TheVLT is composed of four 8.2-m (27-ft) Unit Telescopes that can besupplemented by a further four 1.8-m (5.9-ft) mobile auxiliarytelescopes. By observing nebulae such as N55, astronomers hope togain a deeper understanding of the processes that govern the creationof new generations of stars.
The nebula itself islocated within a "superbubble" of the satellite galaxyknown as LMC 4. The void was formed when powerful stellar windspaired with the supernovae of numerous stars embedded within thecosmic structure carved out a vast cavities in the dust and gas leftover from the star creation process. Some time in the next severalbillion years a similar event will rip apart N55, redistributingcosmic gas and dust as the nebula's constituent stars die in spectacularsupernovae.
N55managed to withstand the powerful forces that shaped the LMC 4superbubble and remain within the cavity. The vivid blue stars observed illuminating the nebulawere borne hundreds of millions of years after the shell wascreated. The nebula is seen to glow with a pinkish hue as generatedas light from the young stars strips hydrogen atoms saturating thesurrounding clouds of their electrons.
Scroll down to view an ESO video highlighting the position of N55 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.