Credit: J.A. Toala & M.A. Guerrero (IAA-CSIC), Y.-H. Chu (UIUC/ASIAA), R.A. Gruendl (UIUC), S. Mazlin, J. Harvey, D. Verschatse & R. Gilbert (SSRO-South) and ESA

In an image that would surely inspire Thor himself, the folks from the European Space Agency (ESA) have taken a new look at a region that remains a favorite amongst amateurs and professionals alike. Called NGC 2359—better known as Thor's Helmet Nebula—it can be found approximately 15,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Canis Major.

Naturally, the nebula's nickname is based around the similarities it bears to the Norse God's helmet (and at 30 light-years wide, its size is certainly befitting of a God).

At the center of the nebula lies an incredibly powerful Wolf-Rayet star called HD 56925. By nature, stars of this magnitude are very unstable, and they lose mass at an exceptional rate. In the case of this particular star, in just 100,000 years, it loses material equivalent to 1 solar mass. This material, in turn, has been forged into numerous large arches. They, with help from a nearby molecular cloud, are responsible for its helmet-like shape.

This new image is a composite, put together using images taken by the XMM-Newton Space Observatory, and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory's Stars and Shadows Remote Observatory South. The former maps the x-ray emission of HD 56925, helping showcase its vivid blue color, while the latter is used to differentiate regions in which ionized hydrogen and oxygen (seen in red and green) reign supreme.

More from the ESA:

You can find a larger image here.


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