From European Southern Observatory: “Bubbles of Brand New Stars”

From European Southern Observatory

6 February 2019

Anna McLeod
Postdoctoral Research Fellow — Texas Tech University & University of California Berkeley
Tel: +1 80 6834 2588
Email: anna.mcleod@ttu.edu

Calum Turner
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
Email: pio@eso.org

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This dazzling region of newly-forming stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) was captured by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer instrument (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope [see below]. The relatively small amount of dust in the LMC and MUSE’s acute vision allowed intricate details of the region to be picked out in visible light.

ESO MUSE on the VLT on Yepun (UT4)

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Deep within the glowing cloud of the HII region LHA 120-N 180B, MUSE has spotted a jet emitted by a fledgling star — a massive young stellar object . This is the first time such a jet has been observed in visible light outside the Milky Way. Usually, such jets are obscured by their dusty surroundings, meaning they can only be detected at infrared or radio wavelengths by telescopes such as ALMA [see below]. However, the relatively dust-free environment of the LMC allowed this jet — named Herbig–Haro 1177, or HH 1177 for short — to be observed at visible wavelengths. At nearly 33 light-years in length, it is one of the longest such jets ever observed. The blue and red regions in this image show the jet, which was detected as blue- and red-shifted emission peaks of the Hα line. Credit: ESO, A McLeod et al.

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This dazzling region of newly-forming stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) was captured by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope [see below]. The relatively small amount of dust in the LMC and MUSE’s acute vision allowed intricate details of the region to be picked out in visible light.
The image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 [produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute between 1983 and 2006}, and shows the region surrounding LHA 120-N 180B, visible at the centre of the image. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin

Jet Infographic
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Credit: ESO, A McLeod et al.

See the full article to access three videos on this work.

This region of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) glows in striking colours in this image captured by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The region, known as LHA 120-N 180B — N180 B for short — is a type of nebula known as an H II region (pronounced “H two”), and is a fertile source of new stars.

The LMC is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, visible mainly from the Southern Hemisphere.

Large Magellanic Cloud. Adrian Pingstone December 2003

Large Magellanic Cloud by by German astrophotographer Eckhard Slawik

At only around 160 000 light-years away from the Earth, it is practically on our doorstep. As well as being close to home, the LMC’s single spiral arm appears nearly face-on, allowing us to inspect regions such as N180 B with ease.

Large Magellanic Cloud by Carlos Milovic showing spiral arms

H II regions are interstellar clouds of ionised hydrogen — the bare nuclei of hydrogen atoms. These regions are stellar nurseries — and the newly formed massive stars are responsible for the ionisation of the surrounding gas, which makes for a spectacular sight. N180 B’s distinctive shape is made up of a gargantuan bubble of ionised hydrogen surrounded by four smaller bubbles.

HH 1177 tells us about the early lives of stars. The beam is highly collimated; it barely spreads out as it travels. Jets like this are associated with the accretion discs of their star, and can shed light on how fledgling stars gather matter. Astronomers have found that both high- and low-mass stars launch collimated jets like HH 1177 via similar mechanisms — hinting that massive stars can form in the same way as their low-mass counterparts.

MUSE has recently been vastly improved by the addition of the Adaptive Optics Facility , the Wide Field Mode of which saw first light in 2017. Adaptive optics is the process by which ESO’s telescopes compensate for the blurring effects of the atmosphere — turning twinkling stars into sharp, high-resolution images. Since obtaining these data, the addition of the Narrow Field Mode, has given MUSE vision nearly as sharp as that of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope — giving it the potential to explore the Universe in greater detail than ever before.

Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

More information

This research was presented in a paper entitled “An optical parsec-scale jet from a massive young star in the Large Magellanic Cloud” which appeared in the journal Nature.

The research team was composed of A. F. McLeod (who conducted this research while at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and is now affiliated with the Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas Tech University, USA), M. Reiter (Department of Astronomy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA), R. Kuiper (Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Tübingen, Germany), P. D. Klaassen (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK) and C. J, Evans (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK).

See the full article here .


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Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres



ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

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ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

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ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

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