A unique peanut-shaped cocoon of dust, called a reflection nebula, surrounds a cluster of young, hot stars in this view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The "double bubble," called N30B, is inside a larger nebula. The larger nebula, called DEM L 106, is embedded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way lying 160,000 light-years away. The wispy filaments of DEM L 106 fill much of the image. Hubble captures the glow of fluorescing hydrogen and sulfur, as well as the brilliant blue-white colors of the hot stars.
The very bright star at the top of the picture, called Henize S22, illuminates the dusty cocoon like a flashlight shining on smoke particles. This searing supergiant star is only 25 light-years from the N30B nebula. Viewed from N30B, the brilliant star would appear 250 times as bright as the planet Venus does in Earth's sky.
Lowell Observatory astronomer M.S. Oey and University of Illinois astronomer Y.-H. Chu are members of a science team studying DEM L 106. Along with their collaborators, Oey and Chu have made a clever use of the reflection nebula around N30B. By obtaining spectroscopic observations at various points across the nebula, they can study the spectrum of S22 from different angles. Remarkably, they have found that the star's spectrum changes with the viewing angle, suggesting that the star is surrounded by a flattened disk of gas expelled from its equator.
Astronomers R. Davies, K. Elliot, and J. Meaburn, who created the "DEM" catalogs of both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, originally cataloged DEM L 106 in the 1970's. N30B was discovered in the 1950s by astronomer K. Henize, who later became a NASA astronaut.
DEM L 106 was imaged with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). Hubble data taken in 1998 were combined with data taken by the Hubble Heritage Team in late 2001.
Acknowledgment: M.S. Oey (Lowell Observatory) and Y.-H. Chu (U. of Illinois)