Hubble Peers Into The Storm

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

September 11, 2016 – This shot from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a maelstrom of glowing gas and dark dust within one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

This stormy scene shows a stellar nursery known as N159, an HII region over 150 light-years across. N159 contains many hot young stars. These stars are emitting intense ultraviolet light, which causes nearby hydrogen gas to glow, and torrential stellar winds, which are carving out ridges, arcs, and filaments from the surrounding material.

At the heart of this cosmic cloud lies the Papillon Nebula, a butterfly-shaped region of nebulosity. This small, dense object is classified as a High-Excitation Blob, and is thought to be tightly linked to the early stages of massive star formation.

N159 is located over 160,000 light-years away. It resides just south of the Tarantula Nebula (heic1402), another massive star-forming complex within the LMC.

This image comes from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The region was previously imaged by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, which also resolved the Papillon Nebula for the first time. The ACS, installed during Servicing Mission 3 in 2002 doubled Hubble’s field of view with sharper image quality and more sensitive detectors. ACS was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems was responsible for building Hubble’s cylindrical casing and the Support Systems Module, and for integrating the telescope. NASA recently awarded a contract extension to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation to continue maintaining the health and safety of the Hubble Space Telescope.