The Tapestry of Blazing Star Birth approximately 163,000 light years away is one example of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the Hubble Telescope has observed during its 30 year life span. What is a Stellar Nursery you may ask? This is an area of outer space within a dense nebula in which gas and dust are contracting, resulting in the formation of new stars much like the Pillars of Creation. This features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbour NGC 2022 which together form a part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.
The Cosmic Reef
Hubble nicknamed this the Cosmic Reef due to its resemblance to an undiscovered undersea world. The main characters of NGC 2014 are a collection of bright colossal stars, each 10 to 20 times bigger than our own sun. The star’s ultraviolet radiation heats the surrounding dense gas. These huge stars also release brutal winds of charged particles that blast away lower-density gas, forming the balloon-like structures seen on the right, which resemble coral reefs. The Star’s incredible winds push gas and dust to the denser left side of the nebula, where it is collecting, creating an array of dark ridges covered in starlight. The blue areas in NGC 2014 reveal the glow of oxygen, heated to almost 12,000 Degrees Celsius by the burst of ultraviolet light. The cooler red gas indicates the presence of hydrogen and nitrogen.
By comparison, what appears to be the isolated blue nebula at the lower left of the image NGC 2020 has been created by a lone colossal star 200,00 times brighter than our very own sun much like the stars seen in NGC 2014. The blue gas was fired by the star through a series of frenzied events during which it lost parts of its outer envelope of material.
This image was taken by Hubble’s wide field camera 3, commemorating the Earth-orbiting observatory’s 30 years in space.