Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2006 January 6
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The Tarantula Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Brad Moore

Explanation: First cataloged as a star, 30 Doradus is actually an immense star forming region in nearby galaxy The Large Magellanic Cloud. The region's spidery appearance is responsible for its popular name, the Tarantula Nebula, except that this tarantula is about 1,000 light-years across, and 180,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. If the Tarantual Nebula were at the distance of the Orion Nebula (1,500 light-years), the nearest stellar nursery to Earth, it would appear to cover about 30 degrees on the sky or 60 full moons. The spindly arms of the Tarantula Nebula surround NGC 2070, a cluster that contains some of the intrinsically brightest, most massive stars known. Intriguing details of the nebula's core can be seen in this remarkable skyscape, a composite of 31 hours of exposure time. This cosmic Tarantula also lies near the site of the closest recent supernova.

Tomorrow's picture: Moonship

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