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Emission Nebula N44C

N44C is the designation for a region of glowing hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

N44C is peculiar because the star mainly responsible for illuminating the nebula is unusually hot. The most massive stars, ranging from 10-50 times more massive than the Sun, have maximum temperatures of 54,000 to 90,000 degrees Fahrenheit (30,000 to 50,000 degrees Kelvin). The star illuminating N44C appears to be significantly hotter, with a temperature of about 135,000 degrees Fahrenheit (75,000 degrees Kelvin)!

The star that appears to power the nebula, although young and bright, does not seem hot enough to create some of the colors observed. A search for a hidden hotter star in X-rays has come up empty. One hypothesis is that the known central star has a neutron star companion in a very wide orbit. Hot X-rays might only then be emitted during brief periods when the neutron star nears the known star and crashes through a disk of surrounding gas. Future observations might tell.

Flowing filaments of colorful gas and dark dust far from the brightest region are likely part of the greater N44 complex. It would take light about 125 years to cross N44C.

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