This science visualization presents the dramatic landscape of two nebulas in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The video, based on images by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, takes viewers on a close-up tour of the nebulas’ three-dimensional structures, as envisioned by scientists and artists.
The movie begins with the Hubble view of NGC 2014 (lower left) and NGC 2020 (upper right). The region has been nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because of its resemblance to an undersea world. The camera then flies past myriad stars for a close-up look at NGC 2014. The first stop is the bubble of hot gas on the left that has a coral-like appearance. Energetic ultraviolet light from the system’s most massive stars has heated the gas, while strong stellar winds (streams of charged particles) help create its bubble structure.
The journey continues into the heart of the nebula, home to extraordinarily massive and bright stars. The glowing gas in this region is bathed in the stars’ intense luminosity. In contrast, the dark, denser gas is resisting that radiation, and is blown back to form craggy, mountainous shapes. The virtual flight moves past ridges, valleys, and pockets of new star formation.
The camera then rises up and over a ridge of NGC 2014, revealing the three-dimensional structure of neighboring NGC 2020. The Wolf-Rayet star at its core is the mammoth, intensely hot source of this nebula. Episodes of outbursts from the young star have produced cloudy rings and clumps in the bright blue gas. While Hubble views NGC 2020 looking down the axis of the stellar outflows, the visualization finishes with a side view that illustrates the nebula’s double-lobed structure.
Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, J. DePasquale, L. Hustak, J. Olmstead, A. Pagan, D. Player, and F. Summers (STScI)
Music: “Cosmic Reef” by J. DePasquale (STScI)