The cosmic spider looms
Arachnophobes, look away now. This is the sharpest ever picture taken of the Tarantula Nebula, a vast cloud of hydrogen gas around 160,000 light-years away.
The Tarantula is more than 1000 light years across and dwells within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite of our own Milky Way.
Of course, the cosmic spider dwelling at the top of the image is not weaving webs. Instead, the churning gas that makes up the nebula is slowly being spun into brand new stars.
Its huge size makes it the brightest star-forming region in our galactic neighbourhood – so bright that you can actually see it with just a pair of binoculars.
The picture was taken using the VLT Survey Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, with the aid of a filter designed to pick up the red glow of ionised hydrogen, which is created when radiation from new stars strips off the electron from a hydrogen atom.
Studying the distribution of ionised hydrogen will help astronomers under the physics taking place within the Tarantula as new stars form.
Source: New Scientist