Wednesday, March 17, 2021

NGC 2040

NGC 2040 (also known as LH 88, LHA 120-N 59, amongst plenty other designations) is an open star cluster, located at a distance of around 160,000 light years in the constellation of Dorado. It was discovered on the 27th of September 1826 by James Dunlop.

This young group of stars is part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our own. Stars in the cluster are widely dispersed and they are part of an OB association. 

Optical images reveal that the cluster is covered by a thin “veil” of partially ionized hydrogen. The region is part of a supergiant gas shell known as LMC 4. 

Within a period of millions of years, stars can form such shells of gas, which are the largest interstellar structures in galaxies. Such shells are created by the strong stellar winds of massive stars and the supernovae explosions of the more massive stars of their group. 

This triggers star formation in the region, thus over millions of years, thousands of stars may form in such regions. It is believed that most stars in our galaxy (and other galaxies too), were formed in such OB associations.

Image: Composite optical image of NGC 2040 taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The image was created using a narrow band filter that is focused on the emission of ionized hydrogen (red channel), together with broadband filters (Ultraviolet-blue channel, Visible-green channel, Infrared-orange channel). 

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and D. A Gouliermis. Acknowledgement: Flickr user Eedresha Sturdivant

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