Hubble probes the birthplace of colossal stars in nearby galaxy
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a dazzling view of a stellar laboratory, which is being used by astronomers to understand how truly gargantuan stars come to form. The image features a colorful star field and a substructure of the famous Tarantula Nebula, which is located in a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.
The new image shows a relatively small collection of stars, dust and gas that occupy a region of space evocatively known as LHA 120-N150, which is located on the fringe of the famous tarantula nebula.
The Tarantula Nebula spans a little under 1,000 light years, and is part of the Large Magellanic Cloud – one of two irregular dwarf galaxies that orbits our Milky Way, and will likely merge with it in roughly two billion years. The nebula is an incredibly active star-formation region, and plays host to a huge population of massive stellar bodies.
Because it is fairly nearby in astrological terms, and is relatively free of the vast light-absorbing dust clouds that so often obscure the space surrounding stellar nurseries, the Tarantula Nebula has become a favored laboratory for scientists unraveling the mysteries of star formation.
More specifically, observations of the nebula could be invaluable in the effort to understand the environments in which massive stars are born. According to current theoretical models, enormous stars should form together in vast clusters. However, observations of the Tarantula Nebula suggest that around 10 percent of its massive stars coalesced in an area of isolated space.
Astronomers are not yet sure whether these anomalous stars truly formed alone, or whether they – as the models suggest – formed in a vast hive of similar stars, and subsequently migrated away.
The question is a tricky one to answer, as large stars in the process of forming look almost indistinguishable to the clumps of dust present in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Scroll down to watch a video zooming in on LHA 120-N150 from the vantage point of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Source: ESA/Hubble Space Telescope