The part of the nebula visible in this image from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys is criss-crossed with tendrils of dust and gas churned up by recent supernovae. These supernova remnants include NGC 2060, visible above and to the left of the centre of this image, which contains the brightest known pulsar.
Hubble has taken this stunning close-up shot of part of the Tarantula Nebula. This star-forming region of ionised hydrogen gas is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy which neighbors the Milky Way. It is home to many extreme conditions including supernova remnants and the heaviest star ever found. The Tarantula Nebula is the most luminous nebula of its type in the local universe. Credit: NASA, ESA
The tarantula's bite goes beyond NGC 2060. Near the edge of the nebula, outside the frame, below and to the right, lie the remains of supernova SN 1987a, the closest supernova to Earth to be observed since the invention of telescopes in the 17th century.
Hubble and other telescopes have been returning to spy on this stellar explosion regularly since it blew up in 1987, and each subsequent visit shows an expanding shockwave lighting up the gas around the star, creating a pearl necklace of glowing pockets of gas around the remains of the star. SN 1987a is visible in wide field images of the nebula, such as that taken by the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope.
Together with dying stars, the Tarantula Nebula is packed with young stars which have recently formed from the nebula's supply of hydrogen gas. These toddler-stars shine forth with intense ultraviolet light that ionises the gas, making it light up red.
The light is so intense that although around 170 000 light-years distant, and outside the Milky Way, the Tarantula Nebula is nevertheless visible without a telescope on a dark night to Earth-bound observers. This nebula might be far away, but it is the most luminous example of its type that astronomers have observed in the local Universe.
A compact and extremely bright star cluster called RMC 136 (http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/opo0932a/) lies above and to the left of this field of view, providing much of the radiation that powers the multi-coloured glow. Until recently, astronomers debated whether the source of the intense light was a tightly bound cluster of stars, or perhaps an unknown type of super-star thousands of times bigger than the Sun. It is only in the last 20 years, with the fine detail revealed by Hubble and the latest generation of ground-based telescopes, that astronomers have been able to conclusively prove that it is, indeed, a star cluster.
But even if the Tarantula Nebula doesn't contain this hypothetical super-star, it still hosts some extreme phenomena, making it a popular target for telescopes. Within the bright star cluster lies star RMC 136a1, which was recently found to be the heaviest ever discovered, at around 300 times the mass of the Sun at its birth (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1030/). This heavyweight is challenging astronomers' theories of star formation, smashing through the upper limit they thought existed on star mass.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
Image credit: NASA, ESA
- Images of Hubble: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/category/spacecraft/
- http://www.naic.edu/~gibson/30dor/- http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_classroom/multiwavelength_
Oli Usher | EurekAlert!
23.01.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
New for three types of extreme-energy space particles: Theory shows unified origin
23.01.2018 | Penn State
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy