Science and Exploration

NGC 2040 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 5, 2022
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NGC 2040 in the Large Magellanic Cloud
The stellar grouping is known to stargazers as NGC 2040 or LH 88

These bright stars shining through what looks like a haze in the night sky are part of a young stellar grouping in one of the largest known star formation regions of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

The stellar grouping is known to stargazers as NGC 2040 or LH 88. It is essentially a very loose star cluster whose stars have a common origin and are drifting together through space. There are various types of stellar associations, defined by their differing properties. NGC 2040 is an OB association, a grouping that usually contains 10 to 100 stars of type O and B — these are high-mass stars that have short but brilliant lives. It is thought that most of the stars in the Milky Way were born in OB associations.

There are several such groupings of stars in the LMC. Just like the others, LH 88 consists of several high-mass young stars in a large nebula of partially ionized hydrogen gas, and lies in what is known to be a supergiant shell of gas called LMC 4. Over a period of several million years, thousands of stars may form in these supergiant shells, which are the largest interstellar structures in galaxies. The shells themselves are believed to have been created by strong stellar winds and clustered supernova explosions of massive stars that blow away surrounding dust and gas, and in turn trigger further episodes of star formation.

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

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.