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N44C is the designation for a region of ionized hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere. N44C is part of the larger N44 complex, which includes young, hot, massive stars, nebulae, and a "superbubble" blown out by multiple supernova explosions.

H-alpha ground-based image of the entire N44 complex in the LMC.

Composite of [S II] image (white) and ROSAT X-ray image (visible in red).

Why is N44C interesting to astronomers?

N44C is an intriguing object 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."

The filaments on the top right of the image 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.

The ROSAT data were taken with the Position Sensitive Proportional Counter (PSPC) in 1992. Both the [S II] image and the H-alpha images were taken with the Curtis Schmidt Telescope at CTIO by R. Chris Smith. Images Courtesy of Y.H. Chu (UICU).

Botticelli's Venus