Crowd-sourced Analysis of Hubble Archive Yielded Fantastic Image
New insights were found in this star-forming region located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The huge clouds of gas seen within it are slowly collapsing, forming new stars in the process. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colors, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) contains a large number of star-forming regions like this one. Among them is also the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighbourhood of all, the Tarantula Nebula, and then smaller one like this, LHA 120-N 11, which we see a part of in this Hubble image.
The LMC, 200,000 light-years from Earth, is actually an ideal position for astronomers to study the phenomena surrounding star formation. Its position is far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way's center. It is also close enough to study in detail, and lies almost face-on to us.
LHA 120-N 11 (known as N11 for short) is one of the brightest regions of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. In the middle part of this image, a dark finger of dust blots out much of the light. While nebulae are mostly made of hydrogen, the simplest and most plentiful element in the Universe, dust clouds are home to heavier and more complex elements, which can form rocky planets like the Earth. Much finer than household dust (it is more like smoke), this interstellar dust consists of material expelled from previous generations of stars as they died, after they served as the thermonuclear factories to fuse together hydrogen atoms, or just single protons in that case, to more heavy elements like iron, and in the short dying stage even heavier elements like most metals and up to super-heavy elements like uranium.
The Hubble website presented this picture in the Hidden Treasure series: "The data in this image were identified by Josh Lake, an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut, USA, in the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition. The competition invited members of the public to dig out unreleased scientific data from Hubble's vast archive, and to process them into stunning images.
Josh Lake won first prize in the competition with an image contrasting the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen in N11. The image above combines the data he identified with additional exposures taken in blue, green and near infrared light."