"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Shell game in the LMC
An alluring sight in dark southern skies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is seen here through a narrow filter that transmits only the red light of hydrogen atoms. Ionized by energetic starlight, a hydrogen atom emits the characteristic red H-alpha light as its single electron is recaptured and transitions to lower energy states. As a result, this image of the LMC seems covered with shell-shaped clouds of hydrogen gas surrounding massive, young stars. Sculpted by the strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation, the glowing hydrogen clouds are known as H II (ionized hydrogen) regions. This high resolution mosaic view was recorded in 6 segments, each with 200 minutes of exposure time. Itself composed of many overlapping shells, the Tarantula Nebula, is the large star forming region near top center. A satellite of our Milky Way Galaxy, the LMC is about 15,000 light-years across and lies a mere 180,000 light-years away in the constellation Dorado.
Image credit: John P. Gleason