New Photo Of Star Death In The Dragon's Head Nebula Of The Large Magellanic Cloud [PHOTO]

By Ajit Jha on November 27, 2013 11:42 AM EST

The Large Magellanic Cloud
This image of the Large Magellanic Cloud was recently captured by the ESO's Very Large Telescope. The filamentary shapes to the left show stellar death. (Photo: European Southern Observatory)

A new image taken by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile captures in great detail the Dragon's Head Nebula, an area of the Large Magellanic Cloud. 

The Magellanic Cloud is one of our closest galactic neighbors. It is located about 160,000 light years from us in the constellation of Dorado (The Swordfish). This constellation is actively forming new stars, some of which are bright enough to be seen with naked eyes from Earth. The Tarantula Nebula is one such example. The Dragon's Head Nebula (officially called "NGC 2035"), however, cannot be seen without very powerful telescopes. This nebula is located in HII region. This region consists of clouds of gas that continue to glow brightly due to extremely powerful radiation emitted by young stars nearby. The light is released as radiation strips electrons from atoms of the gas. The released electrons recombine with other atoms and radiate light. In addition, there are dark clumps of dust in the gas that absorb light creating in the process weaving lanes and dark shapes across the nebula.

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To the left in the image, one can clearly see the filamentary shapes. They depict stellar death, showing an image of a supernova explosion, which is considered among the most violent events that can take place in the universe. The magnitude of these explosions is beyond our imagination. They are extremely bright — so bright, in fact, that they often briefly outshine their host galaxy. However, they eventually fade from view over several weeks or months. In 199, the Lick Observatory in California, using a telescope that had been specially built to search for the rare, but important cosmic objects, discovered a new supernova in galaxy NGC 1637. Following the spectacular explosion, scientists have been carefully studying the supernova's fading brightness through the years. 

This image actually depicts a gargantuous space: the clouds you see are actually several light years across. Even then, on the cosmic scale, they are pretty small: the Large Magellanic Cloud is 14,000 light years wide, which is 10 times smaller than our own Milky Way.

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