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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.

2009 March 31
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

In the Heart of the Tarantula Nebula
Credit: ESA, NASA, ESO, & Danny LaCrue

Explanation: In the heart of monstrous Tarantula Nebula lies huge bubbles of energetic gas, long filaments of dark dust, and unusually massive stars. In the center of this heart, is a knot of stars so dense that it was once thought to be a single star. This star cluster, labeled as R136 or NGC 2070, is visible just above the center of the above image and home to a great number of hot young stars. The energetic light from these stars continually ionizes nebula gas, while their energetic particle wind blows bubbles and defines intricate filaments. The above representative-color picture of this great LMC nebula details its tumultuous center. The Tarantula Nebula, also known as the 30 Doradus nebula, is one of the largest star-formation regions known, and has been creating unusually strong episodes of star formation every few million years.


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