[/caption]

When we think of stars, we might think of their building blocks as white hot… But that’s not particularly the case.The very “stuff” that creates a sun is cold dust and in this combined image produced by the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions; and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, we’re taking an even more incredible look into the environment which forms stars. This new image peers into the dusty arena of both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds – just two of our galactic neighbors.

Through the infra-red eyes of the Herschel-Spitzer observation, the Large Magellanic Cloud would almost appear to look like a gigantic fireball. Here light-years long bands of dust permeate the galaxy with blazing fields of star formation seen in the center, center-left and top right (the brightest center-left region is called 30 Doradus, or the Tarantula Nebula. The Small Magellanic Cloud is much more disturbed looking. Here we see a huge filament of dust to the left – known as the galaxy’s “wing” – and, to the right, a deep bar of star formation.

This new image shows the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light from the Herschel Space Observatory a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions, and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

What makes these images very unique is that they are indicators of temperature within the Magellanic Clouds. The cool, red areas are where star formation has ceased or is at its earliest stages. Warm areas are indicative of new stars blooming to life and heating the dust around them. “Coolest areas and objects appear in red, corresponding to infrared light taken up by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver at 250 microns, or millionths of a meter. Herschel’s Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer fills out the mid-temperature bands, shown in green, at 100 and 160 microns.” says the research team. “The warmest spots appear in blue, courtesy of 24- and 70-micron data from Spitzer.”

Both the LMC and SMC are the two largest satellite galaxies of the Milky Way and are cataloged as dwarf galaxies. While they are large in their own right, this pair contains fewer essential star-forming elements such as hydrogen and helium – slowing the rate of star growth. Although star formation is generally considered to have reached its apex some 10 billion years ago, some galaxies were left with less basic materials than others.

“Studying these galaxies offers us the best opportunity to study star formation outside of the Milky Way,” said Margaret Meixner, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md., and principal investigator for the mapping project. “Star formation affects the evolution of galaxies, so we hope understanding the story of these stars will answer questions about galactic life cycles.”

Original Story Source: NASA/Herschel News.

Tammy Plotner

Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status. (Tammy passed away in early 2015... she will be missed)

View Comments

  • LMC? It looks more like a dense, and complex supernova remnant: it certainly does look like the after-effects of an explosion in progress. An evocative structure, in given wavelength-light, anyway.

    Is it a brain illusion through eye of sight, or can one almost see luminous “transparent”, but indistinct, tubular-like structures ( reminiscent of formations found in Jelly Fish, or some form of Coral Life? ), associated with the “warm” violet-blue areas? ( Maybe just the mind's cloud-picture effect at work. )

    Another one of the many happy coincidences, that we have these two highly visible dwarf star systems so well placed for the kind of detailed study being done in our epic time? Two mighty showcases of the spectacular!

Recent Posts

Design for a Space Habitat With Artificial Gravity That Could Be Grown Larger Over Time to Fit More People

There are two main approaches that humanity can take to living in space.  The one…

18 hours ago

Searching for Phosphorus in Other Stars

The Search for Life can be a lot messier than it sounds. The three words…

1 day ago

The Space Court Foundation is Now in Session!

The Space Court Foundation hopes to play a pivotal role in the evolving domain of…

1 day ago

James Webb Will Look for Signs of Life on Planets Orbiting Dead Stars

Can the galaxy's dead stars help us in our search for life? A group of…

2 days ago

Weekly Space Hangout: September 16, 2020 – Dr. Merav Opher Discusses the Shape of the Sun’s Heliosphere

https://youtu.be/Rwpe3ITvv60 This week we are pleased to welcome Dr. Merav Opher, Professor from the Astronomy…

2 days ago

Astronomers Measure a 1-billion Tesla Magnetic Field on the Surface of a Neutron Star

We recently observed the strongest magnetic field ever recorded in the Universe. The record-breaking field…

2 days ago