A nursery for the stars

Sparkling stars set amid dark dust and glowing gas light up the north-western corner of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in this Hubble Space Telescope image of the star-forming region known as LHA 120-N11. It’s the second largest and brightest stellar nursery in the LMC, spanning some 1,000 light years across, and within the LMC only the immense Tarantula Nebula is larger.

Image: NASA/ESA.

The LMC itself is a dwarf galaxy 162,000 light years away, which in cosmic terms is right on the doorstep of our Milky Way Galaxy. In fact, gravitational tides lapping up on the LMC’s shores from both our Galaxy and the LMC’s companion, the neighbouring Small Magellanic Cloud, are stirring up gas within the LMC, causing new stars to burst into life. LHA 120-N11 is one of these regions where molecular hydrogen gas has been corralled into forming new stars. Among them are numerous massive stars that have exploded as supernovae, helping to blow out a cavity inside LHA 120-N11 that is 260 by 195 light years in size.