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Celestial equivalent of a geode – Rare Space Photo Captured

In this unusual image, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captures a rare view of the celestial equivalent of a geode — a gas cavity carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from a hot young star.

Real geodes are baseball-sized, hollow rocks that start out as bubbles in volcanic or sedimentary rock. Only when these inconspicuous round rocks are split in half by a geologist, do we get a chance to appreciate the inside of the rock cavity that is lined with crystals. In the case of Hubble’s 35 light-year diameter “celestial geode” the transparency of its bubble-like cavity of interstellar gas and dust reveals the treasures of its interior.

The object, called N44F, is being inflated by a torrent of fast-moving particles (called a “stellar wind”) from an exceptionally hot star once buried inside a cold dense cloud. Compared with our Sun (which is losing mass through the so-called “solar wind”), the central star in N44F is ejecting more than a 100 million times more mass per second. The hurricane of particles moves much faster at about 4 million miles per hour (7 million kilometers per hour), as opposed to about 0.9 million miles per hour (1.5 million kilometers per hour) for our Sun. Because the bright central star does not exist in empty space but is surrounded by an envelope of gas, the stellar wind collides with this gas, pushing it out, like a snowplow. This forms a bubble, whose striking structure is clearly visible in the crisp Hubble image.

N44F is located about 160,000 light-years in our neighboring dwarf galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud, in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado.

Credit: NASA, ESA, Y. Nazé (University of Liège, Belgium) and Y.-H. Chu (University of Illinois, Urbana)