Hubble's close encounter with the Tarantula

August 12, 2012
Image: European Space Agency

( -- Turning its eye to the Tarantula Nebula, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken this close-up of the outskirts of the main cloud of the Nebula.

The bright wispy structures are the signature of an environment rich in ionized , called H II by astronomers. In reality these appear red, but the choice of filters and colors of this image, which includes exposures both in visible and infrared light, make the gas appear green.

These regions contain recently formed stars, which emit powerful ultraviolet radiation that ionizes the gas around them. These clouds are ephemeral as eventually the stellar winds from the and the ionization process will blow away the clouds, leaving like the Pleiades.

Located in the , one of our neighboring galaxies, and situated at a distance of 170,000 light-years away from Earth, the is the brightest known nebula in the Local Group of galaxies. It is also the largest (around 650 light-years across) and most active star-forming region known in our group of galaxies, containing numerous and gas and two bright star clusters. A recent Hubble image shows a large part of the nebula immediately adjacent to this field of view.

The cluster at the Tarantula nebula’s center is relatively young and very bright. While it is outside the field of view of this image, the energy from it is responsible for most of the brightness of the Nebula, including the part we see here. The nebula is in fact so luminous that if it were located within 1,000 light-years from Earth, it would cast shadows on our planet.

The Tarantula Nebula was host to the closest supernova ever detected since the invention of the telescope, supernova 1987A, which was visible to the naked eye.

The image was produced by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, and has a field of view of approximately 3.3 by 3.3 arcminutes.

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Image Processing Competition by contestant Judy Schmidt. Hidden Treasures is an initiative to invite astronomy enthusiasts to search the Hubble archive for stunning images that have never been seen by the general public. The competition has now closed and the results will be published soon.

Explore further: Image: Hubble's lagoon

Related Stories

Image: Hubble's lagoon

October 15, 2010

Like brush strokes on a canvas, ridges of color seem to flow across the Lagoon Nebula, a canvas nearly 3 light-years wide.

Image: Hubble peeks inside a stellar cloud

April 23, 2012

( -- These bright stars shining through what looks like a haze in the night sky are part of a young stellar grouping in one of the largest known star formation regions of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a dwarf ...

Hubble images searchlight beams from a preplanetary nebula

April 28, 2012

( -- The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been at the cutting edge of research into what happens to stars like our sun at the ends of their lives. One stage that stars pass through as they run out of nuclear fuel ...

Hubble observes a dwarf galaxy with a bright nebula

May 10, 2012

( -- The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has made detailed observations of the dwarf galaxy NGC 2366. While it lacks the elegant spiral arms of many larger galaxies, NGC 2366 is home to a bright, star-forming nebula ...

Hubble sees a celestial swan and butterfly

June 5, 2012

( -- This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows planetary nebula NGC 7026. Located just beyond the tip of the tail of the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), this butterfly-shaped cloud of glowing gas and dust ...

Recommended for you

A blue, neptune-size exoplanet around a red dwarf star

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers have used the LCOGT network to detect light scattered by tiny particles (called Rayleigh scattering), through the atmosphere of a Neptune-size transiting exoplanet. This suggests a blue sky on this world ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...

Aging star's weight loss secret revealed

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.