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N119 in the Large Magellanic Cloud


N119 is another "H II region" in the LMC. The most remarkable characteristic is its pronounced spiral shape that is reminiscent of a barred spiral galaxy [3]. It is quite large, about 400 x 600 light-years, and it is situated at the northern side of the stellar bar of the Large Magellanic Cloud, near the centre of rotation of the neutral hydrogen in this galaxy. It is this bar that is responsible for the much higher star density in the lower half of the full-field photo. N119 is the only nebula in the LMC in which the gas is distributed according to such a spiral structure. The distribution of the ionizing stars cannot well explain such an intriguing shape. The measured motions indicate the action of stellar winds and that the ionized gas forms a rotating system.

Research by Annie Laval (Observatoire de Marseille, France) and Patricia Ambrocio-Cruz (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) and their respective collaborators suggest that the reason for such a peculiar shape and motion pattern is probably a collision between two interstellar clouds. The gas in the clouds is highly compressed during the collision, triggering in this way the formation of the luminous stars that are now ionizing the nebula. The two teams are now developing a new model, based on numerical computer simulations, to understand better the intricacies of the collision process, and thus how N119 became such a beautiful spiral nebula.

eso9931d shows in more detail the central region of N119 , highlighting the different distributions of ionized gas and luminous stars. The area depicted in eso9931e is located in the northeastern (top left) arm of the spiral, where the intricate filamentary structure of the nebulosity is well seen. eso9931f is centered on the bright, rich and compact cluster (NGC 1916) that can be seen near the bottom center of the full-field picture, clearly showing the richness of the field surrounding it, as well as the wide variety of stellar colours.

Credit:
ESO

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