The fine folks at the Hubble Space Telescope released this photograph today to celebrate the holidays. I’m not sure which holiday specifically, but anytime is a good time to release beautiful new photographs from Hubble.
You’re looking at a massive star forming region in our satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which is located about 160,000 light-years away. The region is known as LH 95, and it’s just one of hundreds of star-forming systems like this, which astronomers called “associations”. Until now, astronomers were only able to see the bright blue giant stars in these clusters. But Hubble was able to reveal some of the lower mass stars in the nebula as well, and help astronomers to measure their age and mass.
The largest stars in the nebula are pouring out torrents of ultraviolet radiation and killer stellar winds. These tend to heat the surrounding interstellar gas, and blow it away. Even through these winds are trying clear everything out, dark dust lanes are still visible.
The photograph is a composite image, merging together visible and infrared light into a single photograph. The objects revealed in visible light are more blue in colour.