Saturday June 24th 2017

Superbubble Discoveries

Free News Press – NASA scientists say they are getting a better picture of a superbubble in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby galaxy only 160,000 light-years from Earth. The space agency’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory has provided some stunning images of stars forming around the star cluster NGC1929 embedded in the N44 nebula.

The LMC is an irregular satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. It may have once been a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way, but is now irregular because of gravitational forces exerted by the MW and Andromeda Galaxy. It can be seen in the southern sky between the constellations of Dorado and Mensa.

A superbubble forms when a supernova explodes and the shockwave carves out a cavity in the gas. There is a local superbubble in our Milkyway called the local superbubble.

The Large Magellanic Cloud image is actually a composite image of the Chandra X-ray Observatory (Blue), the Spitzer Space Telescope (red) and the 2.2m Max-Planck-ESO telescope (yellow). The outline of the ultraviolet radiation of the superbubble shows where new hot young stars are forming.

Astronomers have been puzzled by the higher-than-expected X-ray radiation levels given off by the superbubbles in the LMC. The extra X-rays could be coming from supernova shockwaves hitting the walls of the superbubble cavities. Another explanation could be that X-rays are being emitted as gas is evaporating from the walls.

The Chandra team, led by Anne Jaskot from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has been studying this superbubble. So far they have not found any elements heavier than hydrogen or helium in the cavity.

It is hoped that the new analysis will shed light on the reason for the intense radiation from the superbubbles in our neighbor galaxy.

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