While NGC 278 may look serene, it is anything but. The galaxy is currently undergoing an immense burst of star formation as revealed in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. However, NGC 278’s star formation is somewhat unusual: why is it only taking place within an inner ring some 6,500 light-years across and not extend to the galaxy’s outer edges?
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a stellar nursery known as N159 — a maelstrom of glowing gas and dark dust within one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). N159 is located over 160,000 light-years away. It resides just south of the Tarantula Nebula, another massive star-forming complex within the LMC.
While truly massive stars go out in a blaze of glory, intermediate-mass stars — those between roughly one and eight times the mass of the Sun — are somewhat quieter. Such stars eventually form cosmic objects known as planetary nebulae, so named because of their vague resemblance to planets when seen through early, low-resolution telescopes.
This planetary nebula is known as Kohoutek 4-55 (or K 4-55). It is one of a series of planetary nebulae that were named after their discoverer, Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek. Such a nebula is formed from material in the outer layers of a red giant star that are expelled into interstellar space when the star is in the late stages of its life.
This image, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 6052, located around 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. It is a “new” galaxy in the process of forming, the result of a merger between two separate galaxies that were gradually drawn together by gravity.