Currently viewing the tag: "Tarantula Nebula"

NASA’s Chandra Space Telescope has acquired a stunning image of 30 Doradus better known as the Tarantula Nebula.

Chandra's new view of the Tarantula Nebula Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.

It is one of the largest star forming regions close to the Milky Way and is the most recognisable feature of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Located just 160,000 light years away it is a cosmic stone’s through from the Earth and spanning a massive 1100 light years it is an excellent place to study star formation and evolution.

The red regions of this image show warm dust detected in the infra-red region of the electromagnetic spectrum by the Spitzer Space Telescope. It shows that the dust and gas have been blown into huge bubbles by the hot and bright stars within the nebula, 2400 of which can be found in the central R136 cluster that is just a few million years old. The data from Chandra is shown in blue and shows the presence of ionised hydrogen (HII) – hydrogen gas that has been heated to extreme temperatures, so much so that it is emitting highly energetic X-rays.

These observations may help to settle a debate as to what is causing the Tarantula nebula to expand. One group of researchers suggests that it is the hot X-ray emitting gas and dust which is causing the whole structure to billow outwards. Whilst another study indicates that it is the energy and particle winds from the hot young stars that are driving this expansion. The answer to this debate could be found in the near future as perhaps the new data will suggest that one of the two ideas is accurate or perhaps it is a combination of both.

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The stunning open star cluster NGC 2100 has been captured like never before in this ESO image.

NGC 2100 Credit: ESO

The cluster is located in the fringes of the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The blue regions of the image show the presence of ionised oxygen. The energy required to ionise the oxygen is supplied by the massive stars located deeper within the Tarantula Nebula, specifically within the large star cluster RMC 136. The red glow at the base of the image displays the presence of less energetic excited hydrogen marking the edge of the influence of the monster stars within RMC 136 and where smaller, cooler and less energetic stars dominate.

As NGC 2100 is a reasonably dense open cluster, it is at most a few hundred million years old, and is likely to be considerably younger. Open clusters form from the same general region of nebulosity and their stars are loosely held together by their mutual gravity. They then drift apart over time under the effect of gravitational perturbations from other objects and eventually disperse entirely with each individual star travelling on its own way through the cosmos.

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