Stars in a little explored region of the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way — shine in an amazing new photo taken by a telescope in Chile.
The photo, released by the European Southern Observatory today (Nov. 27) and taken by the Very large Telescope, shows new, intensely hot stars molding their surrounding dust and gas into a nebula known as NGC 2035, or the Dragon's Head Nebula, about 160,000 light-years from Earth. You can watch a video flythrough of the cosmic image provided by ESO.
While the baby stars are on prominent display, the left side of the image also reveals the remnants of a supernova — an explosion that marks the death of some stars, ESO officials wrote in a release.
The huge pink, purple and blue cloud of dust on the right side of the photo is an emission nebula. Young stars emit radiation, causing the gas surrounding them to glow, but lurking within that gas are dark spots that create the "weaving lanes and dark shapes across the nebula," ESO officials wrote in a release.
"From looking at this image, it may be difficult to grasp the sheer size of these clouds — they are several hundred light-years across," ESO officials said. "And they are not in our galaxy, but far beyond."
The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 10 times smaller than the Milky Way at about 14,000 light-years across, ESO officials added.
Supernova explosions can be brighter than their host galaxies for a short time, but fade over the course of weeks or months. Once a massive star runs out of fuel, it can explode as a supernova after collapsing in on its own gravity. Other supernovas are created as a star steals matter from a stellar neighbor until a nuclear reaction takes hold.
The European Southern Observatory is supported by 15 different countries including Brazil, Austria, Denmark, France Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom among others.