October 11, 1996: Clusters of stars and a fishhook-shaped cloud of luminescent gases glow brilliantly in NGC 2363, a giant star-forming region in the Magellanic galaxy NGC 2366.
The brightest object visible in the Hubble telescope image [right] is a member of a rare class of stars called an erupting Luminous Blue Variable [at the tip of the fishhook]. This monstrous star (30 to 60 times as massive as the Sun) is in a very unstable, eruptive phase of its life. The Hubble telescope photo is the only one in which the star can be clearly isolated from the rest of the cluster. A view of this region from a terrestrial telescope is on the left. Only four giant eruptions of these special stars have been recorded in history, the most famous being Eta Carinae (1837-1860) and P Cygni (1600), within our own galaxy.
Credit: Laurent Drissen, Jean-Rene Roy and Carmelle Robert (Department de Physique and Observatoire du mont Megantic, Universite Laval), Yvan Dutil/ CFHT and NASA.