The Bean Nebula, a large emission nebula in the LMC

The Bean Nebula, a large emission nebula in the LMC

Image Credit: ESO/Manu Mejias

The Bean Nebula (LHA 120-N 44, or N44 for short) is an emission nebula of around 325 by 250 light-years across in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite of our Milky Way galaxy, which is about 160,000 light-years away from us in the southern constellation of Dorado. It is part of a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters.

The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright bubbles of glowing gas, and the Bean Nebula is an example of a superbubble filled with gas blown into the interstellar medium by multiple supernovae and stellar winds. The massive shell of material that makes up the superbubble is surrounding NGC 1929, a large cluster of many bright young stars, and is without doubt the original source of the material that formed these stars. These hot young stars are emitting intense ultraviolet light and causing the gas to glow.

This cosmic superbubble is expanding outwards due to an interaction between two destructive forces generated by the stars at its center: 1) young stars in the cluster send out streams of charged particles, known as stellar winds, that have cleared out the bubble center, and 2) massive stars have exploded to create supernovae shock waves that push the gas out further.

As the hot and compressed bubble of material expands it ploughs into the surrounding material compressing it as well and trigging new star formation at the edges of the region. The Bean Nebula has produced some of the most massive stars known.

This image was created by Manu Mejias from Argentina, using data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope as part of the 2010 Hidden Treasures competition.

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