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News Release 7 of 11

July 1, 2004 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2004-22

Hubble Studies Generations of Star Formation in Neighboring Galaxy

A Hubble Heritage Release

July 1, 2004: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures the iridescent tapestry of star birth in a neighboring galaxy in this panoramic view of glowing gas, dark dust clouds, and young, hot stars. The star-forming region, catalogued as N11B, lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), located only 160,000 light-years from Earth. With its high resolution, the Hubble Space Telescope is able to view details of star formation in the LMC as easily as ground-based telescopes are able to observe stellar formation within our own Milky Way galaxy.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. Where is N11B located and is it unique?

  2. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), located only 160,000 light-years from Earth, is the nearest galaxy outside the Milky Way in which stars are actively being formed. N11 is the second largest star-forming region in LMC. It is only surpassed in the size and activity by 'the king of stellar nurseries,' 30 Doradus, located opposite N11.

  3. 2. How does the cluster of stars in N11B contribute to star formation in the LMC?

  4. N11B illustrates a perfect case of sequential star formation — new star birth triggered by old massive stars. The sequence begins with a collection of blue- and white-colored stars that are among the most massive stars known anywhere in the universe. The region around the hot stars is relatively clear of gas, because the stellar winds and radiation from the stars have pushed the gas away. When this gas collides with surrounding material, it is compressed and can collapse under its own gravity and start to form new stars.

  5. 3. What are the dark clouds in this image?

  6. To the right the image, along the top edge, are several smaller dark clouds of interstellar dust with odd and intriguing shapes. They are seen silhouetted against the glowing interstellar gas. Several of these dark clouds are bright-rimmed because they are illuminated and are being evaporated by radiation from neighboring hot stars.

  7. 4. How was this image created?

  8. This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 using filters that isolate light emitted by oxygen and hydrogen gas. The science team, led by astronomers You-Hua Chu (University of Illinois) and Yäel Nazé (Universite de Liège, Belgium) are comparing these images of N11B, taken in 1999, with similar regions elsewhere in the LMC.

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI), and HEIC

Acknowledgment: Y.-H. Chu (U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and Y. Nazé (U. Liège, Belgium)