April 24th marks the 22nd anniversary of Hubble’s launch into space. To celebrate it, NASA and ESA released this devastating panoramic view (also available here) of the mighty star-forming region 30 Doradus:
Yegads. [Click to embiggen, or get the 4000 x 3200 pixel version, or grab the ginormous 267 Mb 20,323 x 16,259 pixel version. There's also a way cool zoomable image too.]
30 Dor is a vast, sprawling, and chaotic region located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf irregular galaxy that orbits our Milky Way. Even though it’s about 170,000 light years away it’s so bright it’s easily visible using binoculars (if you happen to live in the southern hemisphere or not far from the equator). The reason it’s so bright is that this stellar nursery is churning out thousands of stars, and some of them are the massive, hot, and blue type. These flood the surrounding gas with ultraviolet light which makes the gas glow.
In fact, those young stars are so luminous and energetic they’re eating away the cloud from the inside out! Those big cavities you see are where the light and fierce winds of subatomic particles blown from the stars are slamming onto the gas, pushing it outwards. The edges of the cavities are bright because that’s where gas piles up, and shines more brightly.
In fact, the folks at Chandra released a similar version of this image, except they added observations from that observatory, which detects X-rays (as well as an image using Spitzer which sees in infrared). X-rays are emitted from extremely hot gas, and as you can see in the image inset here (click to embiggen) the cavities are filled with X-ray emitting material (colored blue in the image). I wrote more about this in a post when a similar image was released.
Need a refill on your cup of awesome today?
As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about astronomy and the weird stuff that happens on a daily basis in space, I see a lot of amazing things. You’d think I’d get used to the awesomeness of astronomy, but the opposite is true: I’m always spellbound by what I find.
Still, it takes a lot to seriously impress me, to really make me say Holy Frak.
Well, astronomers have just announced that they have found a massive star that has been flung out of the cluster in which it was born. The star is huge — 90 times the mass of the Sun — and is screaming away from its nursery at 400,000 kilometers per hour.
This incredible image is from the ESO’s 2.2 meter telescope in Chile. It shows an overview of the sprawling 30 Doradus star-forming cloud, located about 180,000 light years away in the satellite galaxy to the Milky Way called the Large Magellanic Cloud (or the LMC to those in the know). In the center of 30 Dor sits a vast cluster of stars called R136. The total combined mass of all the stars in R136 is unclear, but it has several that tip the cosmic scale at 100 times the mass of the Sun, which is the upper limit of how big a star can get without tearing itself apart.