Looking like a colorful holiday card, this image from NASA’s Hubble
Space Telescope reveals a vibrant green and red nebula far from
Earth, where nature seems to have put on the traditional colors of the
season. These colors, produced by the light emitted by oxygen and
hydrogen, help astronomers investigate the star-forming processes in
nebulas such as NGC 2080.

NGC 2080, nicknamed “The Ghost Head Nebula,” is one of a chain of
star-forming regions lying south of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large
Magellanic Cloud that have attracted special attention. These regions
have been studied in detail with Hubble and have long been identified as
unique star-forming sites. 30 Doradus is the largest star-forming
complex in the whole local group of galaxies.

The light from the nebula captured in this image is emitted by two
elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The red and the blue light are from
regions of hydrogen gas heated by nearby stars. The green light on the
left comes from glowing oxygen. The energy to illuminate the green light
is supplied by a powerful stellar wind (a stream of high-speed
coming from a massive star just outside the image. The white region in
the center is a combination of all three emissions and indicates a core
of hot, massive stars in this star-formation region. The intense
emission from these stars has carved a bowl-shaped cavity in the
surrounding gas.

In the white region, the two bright areas (the “eyes of the ghost”) –
named A1 (left) and A2 (right) – are very hot, glowing “blobs” of
hydrogen and oxygen. The bubble in A1 is produced by the hot, intense
radiation and powerful stellar wind from a single massive star. A2 has a
more complex appearance due to the presence of more dust, and it
contains several hidden, massive stars. The massive stars in A1 and A2
must have formed within the last 10,000 years, since their natal gas
shrouds are not yet disrupted by the powerful radiation of the newly
born stars.

The research team noted that Hubble’s superb resolution is essential to
see the various features in the nebula and to better understand the
formation of massive stars in this interesting region.

This “enhanced color” picture is composed of three narrow-band-filter
images obtained March 28, 2000, with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary
2. The colors are red (ionized hydrogen, H-alpha, 1040 seconds), green
(ionized oxygen, 1200 seconds) and blue (ionized hydrogen, H-beta, 1040
seconds). The image spans 67 x 67 arc-seconds, corresponding to 55 x 55
light-years at the distance of the Large Magellanic Cloud (168,000

Credit: NASA, ESA & Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris,

NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information about this image, contact
Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri, Observatoire de Paris, France,
(phone) +33-1-40-51-20-76, (e-mail) heydari@obspm.fr

Ray Villard, Space Telescope Science Institute, USA,
(phone) +1-410-338-4514, (e-mail) villard@stsci.edu or

Lars Lindberg Christensen, Hubble European Space Agency

Information Center, Garching, Germany,

(phone) +49-89-3200-6306 (089 in Germany),

(cellular 24 hr) +49-173-38-72-621 (0173 in Germany),
(e-mail) lars@eso.org

Electronic images are available on the Internet at:



http://hubble.esa.int and via links in

http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html and


The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA),
for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of
international co-operation between ESA and NASA.