The Tarantula Nebula is the most vigorous star forming region known in the local Universe. Using the power of the freely available ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator package a young amateur astronomer has created this amazing panorama of the centre of the Tarantula. The original image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and subsequently retrieved from the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive in Munich, Germany.
The Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Doradus, is situated 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in the Southern sky and is clearly visible to the naked eye as a large milky patch. Astronomers believe that this smallish, irregular galaxy is currently going through a violent period in its life cycle. It is orbiting the Milky Way and has had several close encounters with it. It is believed that the interaction with the Milky Way has caused an episode of energetic star formation – part of which is visible as the Tarantula Nebula. The Tarantula is the largest stellar nursery we know in the local Universe. In fact if this enormous complex of stars, gas and dust were at the distance of the Orion Nebula it would be visible during the day and cover a quarter of the sky.
Over the years the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has returned again and again to observe this interesting region of the sky and in this way Hubble has built up an archival treasure of more than a thousand images and spectra of the Tarantula. A few weeks ago 23 year old amateur astronomer Danny LaCrue sifted through the data and found that 15 of the exposures made with Hubbles Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 could be combined to create a beautiful mosaic of the central parts of the unique Tarantula.
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