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Hubble spots hidden treasure in the Large Magellanic Cloud

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted hidden treasure in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way galaxy. According to a Hubble news release, the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is approximately 200,000 light-years from Earth, participates in a long and slow strut around the Milky Way. Within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), sweeping clouds of gas collapse to create new stars. These new stars light up the gas clouds in a variety of colors, visible in the image taken by Hubble.

The LMC is filled with star-forming regions. Glowing nebulae are dispersed throughout the LMC, a sign that astronomers think is an indication that new stars are being born in this dusty stellar nursery. For astronomers, the LMC is in a great position for the study of star formation; a phenomena that has left scientists with many unanswered questions. The LMC lies far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor is it blocked by the dust in the Milky Way’s center. The LMC is also close enough to examine in detail.

Astronomers note that LHA 120-N 11 is a particularly bright region of the LMC, comprised of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. Star watchers say that NGC 1769 and NGC 1763 are among the brightest parts of the LMC.

In the center of the Hubble image, a dark finger of dust obstructs much of the light. Astronomers point out that plenty of heavy and complex elements reside in dust clouds and that these elements help form rocky planets like our planet. Scientists say that interstellar dust, which resembles smoke, is made up of material given off by generations of stars as they died.

According to Hubble, the data in this photo were analyzed by an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut as part of the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition. The competition let the public review unreleased scientific data from Hubble’s archive, and to develop them into jaw-dropping images.

Josh Lake, the astronomy teacher, won first place in the competition. According the news release, the image above combines the data analyzed by Lake with several other exposures shot in blue, green and near infrared light.