The Tarantula Nebula contains 800,000 stars in various stages of development. The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Program is providing the best look yet at what's going on inside.
The Tarantula Nebula is a star making factory located 170,000 light years from Earth. The enormous cloud of dust and gas holds 800,000 stars in various stages of development. With the use of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA is now getting its best look to date at the nebula. NASA hopes that the Hubble Tarantula Treasury Program will help scientists to better understand the evolution of stars.
The cloud contains stars in just about every stage of development, from red protostars to red giants and supergiants. The frenzy of star birth observed in the Tarantula Nebula is thought to have been common in the early universe. Because of its, relative, nearness to Earth the nebula gives astronomers a chance to observe star formation and life cycles up close, as well as a chance to study how and where clusters of stars form within the nebula so that they can better understand the process and learn more about how our galaxy and the universe formed.
The Hubble mosaic, made up of 438 separate infrared images, spans 600 light-years. Elena Sabbi, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and the principal investigator of the observing team, told NASA that “because of the mosaic’s exquisite detail and sheer breadth, we can follow how episodes of star birth migrate across the region in space and time.”
The Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) was originally thought to be a single star. Astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille recognized it as a nebula in 1751. The first results of the Hubble Tarantula Treasury Program have been published in the Astronomical Journal and are being presented at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society at National Harbor, Md.