An image published by ESO shows the Tarantula Nebula along with the neighboring areas in their details. A team of astronomers used the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in Chile, to capture unseen details of star clusters, bright gas clouds and supernova remnants scattered around. It’s the sharpest image ever obtained of that region of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite dwarf galaxies.
The Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Doradus or as NGC 2070 and C 103, is a starburst region, which means that is characterized by an extraordinary star formation. For this reason it’s the object of much attention from astronomers and for example an article published at the beginning of 2018 in the journal “Science” described the really out-of-the-ordinary amount of massive stars found in that nebula.
This time the astronomers conducted observations of a wider region so in the images the Tarantula Nebula, with an extension of over a thousand light years, is the one at the top part. In addition to young stars, there are other, older ones, such as in the Hodge 301 cluster, where there are remains of supernovae. For example, there’s N157B in what’s called a superbubble where there’s the cluster NGC 2060. On the border of the nebula there are the remains of the supernova SN 1987A. The rest of the image shows what was called a crowded neighborhood, where there are also other interesting cosmic areas.
To the left of the Tarantula Nebula there’s the bright open cluster NGC 2100 with a concentration of massive stars, blue and very bright, and around them red stars. At the center of the images there’s the star cluster NGC 2074 with an emission nebula, another star formation area. There’s the so-called Seahorse of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a structure about 20 light years across. From an astronomical point of view it will not have a long life because star formation will wipe out that dust over a few million years.
To obtain this new image a special camera called OmegaCAM was used, which since 2011 has been used to help this and other types of research. In this case, it allowed to offer an extraordinary view of a very interesting area of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy about 160,000 light years from Earth and with a diameter of “only” 14,000 light years but full of objects to study to understand the processes of star birth and evolution.