Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Portrait of a Dramatic Stellar Crib

22.12.2006
ESO Releases 256 Million Pixel Image of Immense Stellar Factory

A new, stunning image of the cosmic spider, the Tarantula Nebula and its surroundings, finally pays tribute to this amazing, vast and intricately sculpted web of stars and gas. The newly released image, made with ESO's Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-m ESO/MPG Telescope at La Silla, covers 1 square degree on the sky and could therefore contain four times the full Moon.

Known as the Tarantula Nebula for its spidery appearance, the 30 Doradus complex is a monstrous stellar factory. It is the largest emission nebula in the sky, and can be seen far down in the southern sky at a distance of about 170,000 light-years, in the southern constellation Dorado (The Swordfish or the Goldfish). It is part of one of the Milky Way's neighbouring galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The Tarantula Nebula is thought to contain more than half a million times the mass of the Sun in gas and this vast, blazing labyrinth hosts some of the most massive stars known. The nebula owes its name to the arrangement of its brightest patches of nebulosity, that somewhat resemble the legs of a spider. They extend from a central 'body' where a cluster of hot stars (designated 'R136') illuminates and shapes the nebula. This name, of the biggest spiders on the Earth, is also very fitting in view of the gigantic proportions of the celestial nebula - it measures nearly 1,000 light-years across and extends over more than one third of a degree: almost, but not quite, the size of the full Moon. If it were in our own Galaxy, at the distance of another stellar nursery, the Orion Nebula (1,500 light-years away), it would cover one quarter of the sky and even be visible in daylight.

Because astronomers believe that most of the stars in the Universe were formed in large and hectic nurseries such as the 30 Doradus region, its study is fundamental. Early this year, astronomers took a new, wide look at the spider and its web of filaments, using the Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope located at La Silla, Chile, while studying the dark clouds in the region. Dark clouds are enormous clouds of gas and dust, with a mass surpassing a million times that of the Sun. They are very cold, with temperatures about -260 degrees Celsius, and are difficult to study because of the heavy walls of dust behind which they hide. Their study is however essential, as it is in their freezing wombs that stars are born.

Observing in four different bands, the astronomers made a mosaic of the half-degree field of view of the instrument to obtain an image covering one square degree. With each individual image containing 64 million pixels, the resultant mosaic thus contained 4 times as many, or 256 million pixels! The observations were made in very good image quality, the 'seeing' being typically below 1 arcsecond.

The image is based on data collected through four filters, including two narrow-band filters that trace hydrogen (red) and oxygen (green). The predominance of green in the Tarantula is a result of the younger, hotter stars in this region of the complex.

It would be easy to get lost in the meanderings of the filamentary structures or get stuck in the web of the giant arachnid, as is easily experienced with the zoom-in feature provided on the associated photo page, and it is therefore difficult to mention all the unique objects to be discovered. Deserving closer attention perhaps is the area at the right-hand border of the Tarantula. It contains the remains of a star that exploded and was seen with the unaided eye in February 1987, i.e. almost 20 years ago. Supernova SN 1987A, as it is known, is the brightest supernova since the one observed by the German astronomer Kepler in 1604. The supernova is known to be surrounded by a ring, which can be distinguished in the image.

A little to the left of SN 1987A, another distinctive feature is apparent: the Honeycomb Nebula. This characteristic bubble-like structure results apparently from the interaction of a supernova explosion with an existing giant shell, which was itself generated by the combined action of strong winds from young, massive stars and supernova explosions.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-50-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>