Hubble Spies Tarantula Star Factory

Like lifting a giant veil, the near-infrared vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope uncovers a dazzling new view deep inside the Tarantula Nebula. Hubble reveals a glittering treasure trove of more than 800,000 stars and protostars embedded inside the nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (STScI)

Spidey senses tingling yet? The Hubble Space Telescope provides a never-before-seen, panoramic portrait of the innards of the creepy Tarantula Nebula, a monster star factory filled with some 800,000 sparkling newborn stars sitting about 170,000 light-years from Earth.

The cosmic arachnoid, also known as Doradus 30, stretches across roughly 600 light-years in space. It is nestled within the Large Magellanic Cloud, the largest satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

Using the orbiting observatory’s exquisitely sensitive near-infrared vision, astronomers were able to create a mosaic that was stitched together from 438 individual snapshots of the nebula. That allowed them to peer through the nebula’s weblike veil of clouds and dust to catch a glimpse of a cluster of stars in the process of hatching.

“Because of the mosaic’s exquisite detail and sheer breadth, we can follow how episodes of star birth migrate across the region in space and time,” said Elena Sabbi, principal investigator of the observing team, and an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, in a NASA statement.

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Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.