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The odd couple: Two very different gas clouds in the galaxy next door

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Posted August 8, 2013
ESO's Very Large Telescope has captured a detailed view of a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud -- one of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies. This sharp image reveals two glowing clouds of gas. NGC 2014 (right) is irregularly shaped and red and its neighbour, NGC 2020, is round and blue. These odd and very different forms were both sculpted by powerful stellar winds from extremely hot newborn stars that also radiate into the gas, causing it to glow brightly. Credit: ESO

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured a detailed view of a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. This sharp image reveals two glowing clouds of gas. NGC 2014 (right) is irregularly shaped and red and its neighbour, NGC 2020, is round and blue. These odd and very different forms were both sculpted by powerful stellar winds from extremely hot newborn stars that also radiate into the gas, causing it to glow brightly. Credit: ESO

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured an intriguing star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud—one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. This sharp image reveals two distinctive glowing clouds of gas: Red-hued NGC 2014, and its blue neighbour NGC 2020. While they are very different, they were both sculpted by powerful stellar winds from extremely hot newborn stars that also radiate into the gas, causing it to glow brightly.

This image was taken by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile—the best place in the southern hemisphere for astronomical observing. But even without the help of telescopes like the VLT, a glance towards the southern constellation of Dorado (The Swordfish or Dolphinfish) on a clear, dark night reveals a blurry patch which, at first sight, appears to be just like a cloud in the Earth’s atmosphere.

At least, this may have been explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s first impression during his famous voyage to the southern hemisphere in 1519. Although Magellan himself was killed in the Philippines before his return, his surviving crew announced the presence of this cloud and its smaller sibling when they returned to Europe, and these two small galaxies were later named in Magellan’s honour. However, they were undoubtedly seen by both earlier European explorers and observers in the southern hemisphere, although they were never reported.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is actively producing new stars. Some of its star-forming regions can even be seen with the naked eye, for example, the famous Tarantula Nebula. However, there are other smaller—but no less intriguing—regions that telescopes can reveal in intricate detail. This new VLT image explores an oddly mismatched pair: NGC 2014 and NGC 2020.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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