Blue Wisps

Turquoise-tinted plumes in the Large Magellanic CloudThis Hubble image shows part of the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The colors seen in this picture are different from what we normally see in the images of the Large Magellanic Cloud  because an unusual set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which passes red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. Hydrogen gas normally appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. In this case, however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters.

Image Credit: NASA

A Spider in Space

TaranutlaSeveral million young stars are vying for our attention in this image of a stellar breeding ground in 30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula. Early astronomers nicknamed the nebula because its glowing filaments resemble spider legs.

30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region visible in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. It’s home to the most massive stars yet found.

This composite image is one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos and includes multiple observations taken by Hubble‘s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. The Hubble images were combined with ground-based data taken with the European Southern Observatory’s 2.2-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / ESO

The Honeycomb Nebula

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one of the Milky Way’s closest companions. It’s only about 160,000 light-years away. It’s home to the Tarantula Nebula, one of the largest and most active star formation regions in our galactic neighborhood. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a portion of the Tarantula Nebula filled with intriguing structure of stacked “bubbles” that form a nebula within the nebular, the Honeycomb Nebula (at the lower left).

The Honeycomb Nebula was found by accident when astronomers were using ESO’s New Technology Telescope to observe the remnants of a nearby supernova. The nebula’s strange bubble-like shape has has been a puzzle since its discovery in the 1990s. In 2010, a group of astronomers studied the nebula using computer modeling and came to the conclusion that its unique appearance may have been caused by the combined effects of two supernovae. A second explosion may have pierced the expanding shell of material created by an earlier supernova. The nebula’s odd appearance may result from our particular point of view and may not be visible when seen from another direction.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

Monster Stars

R136 observed with WFC3This Hubble image shows the central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The young and dense star cluster R136 can be seen the lower right of the image. This cluster contains hundreds of young blue stars. One of them is the most massive star detected in the universe to date.

Dozens of stars in the cluster exceed 50 solar masses, and nine very massive stars are all more than 100 times more massive than the Sun. The most massive is R136a1—weighing in at more than 250 solar masses.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA