Stars Cooperate to Blow Super Space Bubble

Stars Cooperate to Blow Super Space Bubble
A three-color image of the LHA 115-N 19 region in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Three supernova remants are identified in this view, which is a combinations of optical, radio and X-ray observations. (Image credit: R. Williams.)

Massive stars and their dead brethren areteaming up to build a colossal space bubble outside our Milky Way galaxy.

Expanding envelopesof gas and dust shed by massive stars and supernovas are in the act ofmerging in a peculiar region of the SmallMagellanic Cloud, one of two dwarf galaxiesnear the Milky Way.

"We arewitnessing the birth of a superbubble," said Rosa Williams, an astronomer at theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a statement.

Thesuperbubble spied by Williams and her colleagues is coming together in a regionof the Small Magellanic Cloud known as LHa115-N19 (N19), an area rich withionized hydrogen gas and populated by massive stars blowing out their own dustand gas in stellar winds [image].Supernova remnants, vast gas shells belched out during a star's explosivedemise, also appear in the region, researchers said [image].

"In N19, wehave not one star, but a number of massive stars blowing bubbles and we haveseveral supernova remnants," Williams said, adding that the shells and cavitiescarved the objects may overlap. "Eventually, these bubbles could merge into oneenormous cavity, called a superbubble."

Williamsled the superbubble study and presented her team's findings this week at a Seattlemeeting of the American Astronomical Society. The astronomers relied on X-ray datafrom the Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as optical and spectroscopicmeasurements to identify their superbubble-in-the-making.

"We caughtthis particular region of N19 at a neat moment in time," Williams said. "Thestars are just dispersed enough that their stellar winds and supernova blastsare working together, but have not yet carved out a full cavity."

The cosmicformation not only gives astronomers a deeper glimpse into the lifecycles ofmassive stars, but may also prove fruitful for planetary formation research.During their lifecycles, massive stars generate - and ultimately distribute viasupernova - the heavy elements that are crucial for the formation of planets, researchers said.

"Our own solar system may have formedwithin the confines of a superbubble," Williams said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.