ESO

Brilliant stars lurk in the belly of stellar dragon or bird with sweeping wings in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Zoom into the heart of the Tarantula Nebula in this image. What stories or images do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Tarantula Nebula is one of the largest star-making regions known to scientists. Located at the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, the gas and dust in that region come together to form stars of all sizes and colors. At the very center of this image is a brilliant star known as VFTS 682. The star may be a runaway from the nearby rich star cluster R 136.

Large stars with whipping solar winds and strong ultraviolet radiation cause this cloud to glow. As you zoom into the gas clouds in the region look for the reddish lanes of dark dust. These dust clouds are between Earth and the nebula. They don’t glow glow like the other clouds. Those clouds block light from the nebula but are just as interesting to explore.

VFTS 682 and R136 are found about 170,000 light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Doradus. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a small dwarf galaxy traveling near the Milky Way Galaxy. The LMC and another small galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud can be seen as faint cloud-like objects in the skies of the southern hemisphere. They were described to Europeans by famous sea explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 17th century but they were were well known in the sky lore of the south.

Astronomers combined visible and infrared images from the Wide Field Imager at the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO at the La Silla Observatory and the 4.1-metre infrared VISTA telescope at Paranal to create this single image.

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