Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

June 14, 1999
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N159 and the Papillon Nebula
Credit: M. Heydari-Malayeri (Paris Observatory) et al., WFPC2, HST, ESA, NASA

Explanation: In a search for massive stars, the Hubble Space Telescope has peered into yet another spectacular region of star formation. This nebula, known as N159, spans over 150 light-years and is located in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, about 170,000 light years distant. Visible in the above picture are bright newborn stars, dark filaments of dust, and red-glowing hydrogen gas. The aptly named Papillon Nebula (French for butterfly), is the unusual central compact cloud, highlighted in the inset. Reasons for the bipolar shape of the Papillon Nebula are currently unknown, but might indicate the presence of unseen high-mass stars and a thick gaseous disk.

Tomorrow's picture: The Oscillating Sun

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