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Around the Tarantula nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Date created: 2007-11-24

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This object is the only extra-galactic nebula which can be seen with the unaided eye, and it's only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It is seen as a faint but distinct patch of light at the eastern end of the Large Magellanic Cloud, 170,000 light years distant in Dorado. A small telescope reveals narrow spindly tendrils of glowing gas which have been likened to the legs of a spider. The 'body' of the spider is the bright nebula seen at the upper centre of the photograph, while at its core is an extremely dense clump of very hot stars, until recently thought to a single, unusually massive star known as 30 Doradus. It is the most active star-forming region in the nearby Universe and is responsible for making the enormous nebula visible.

Image derived from an AAT plate taken in red light.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory