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Astronomy Picture of the Day

A satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is an alluring sight [1] in dark southern skies and the constellation Dorado [2].

 

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Hydrogen in the LMC
Credit & Copyright [4]: Marco Lorenzi (Star Echoes [5])

Explanation: A satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is an alluring sight [1] in dark southern skies and the constellation Dorado [2]. A mere 180,000 light-years distant, the LMC is seen in amazing detail in this very deep 4 frame mosaic [6] of telescopic images, a view that reveals the Milky Way’s satellite [7] to have the appearance of a fledgling barred spiral galaxy [8]. The mosaic includes image data taken through a narrow filter that transmits only the red light of hydrogen atoms. Ionized [9] by energetic starlight, a hydrogen atom emits the characteristic red H-alpha [10] light as its single electron is recaptured and transitions to lower energy states. As a result, this mosaic seems spattered with pinkish clouds of hydrogen gas surrounding massive, young stars. Sculpted by the strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation, the glowing hydrogen clouds [11] are known as H II [12] (ionized hydrogen) regions. Composed of many overlapping clouds, the sprawling Tarantula Nebula [13] left of center, is by far the LMC’s largest star forming region. The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 15,000 light-years across.

 

Visit the NASA/JPL website to view more Astronomy Pictures of the Day [14]