NEBULAR FILAMENTS FLUTTER IN STELLAR BREEZE
Resembling the hair in Botticelli's
famous portrait of the birth of Venus, softly
glowing filaments stream from a complex of hot young
stars. This image of the nebula known as N44C comes
from the archives of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
(HST). It was taken with the Wide Field Planetary
Camera 2 in 1996 and is being presented by the Hubble
N44C is the designation for a region of ionized
hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young
stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small
companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the
N44C is peculiar because the star mainly responsible
for illuminating the nebula is unusually hot. The
most massive stars, ranging from 10-50 times more
massive than the Sun, have maximum temperatures
of 30,000 to 50,000 degrees Kelvin. The star illuminating
N44C appears to be significantly hotter, with a
temperature of about 75,000 degrees Kelvin!
Ideas proposed to explain this unusually high temperature
include the possibility of a neutron star or black
hole that intermittently produces X-rays but is
now "switched off."
On the top right of this Hubble image is a network
of nebulous filaments that inspired comparison to
Botticelli. The filaments surround a Wolf-Rayet
star, another kind of rare star characterized by
an exceptionally vigorous "wind" of charged
particles. The shock of the wind colliding with
the surrounding gas causes the gas to glow.
N44C is part of the larger N44 complex, which includes
young, hot, massive stars, nebulae, and a "superbubble"
blown out by multiple supernova explosions. Part
of the superbubble is seen in red at the very bottom
left of the HST image.
The data were taken in November 1996 with Hubble's
Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 by Donald Garnett
(University of Arizona) and collaborators and stored
in the Hubble archive. The image was composed by
the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).
Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team
Acknowledgment: D. Garnett (University of Arizona)