N44C is the designation for a fascinating region of ionized hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It stretches over an expanse of space that would take 125 years to cross if you were traveling at light-speed.
N44C is peculiar because the star mainly responsible for illuminating the nebula is unusually hot. The most massive stars, ranging from 10-50 times more massive than the Sun, have maximum temperatures of 30,000 to 50,000 degrees Kelvin. The star illuminating N44C appears to be significantly hotter, with a temperature of about 75,000 degrees Kelvin!
Ideas proposed to explain this unusually high temperature include the possibility of a neutron star or black hole that intermittently produces X-rays but is now “switched off.”
Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: D. Garnett (University of Arizona)