Credit: ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler, C. C. Thöne, C. Féron, and J.-E. Ovaldsen

I don’t like spiders very much. Blame it on an incident from when I was a teenager. I find them fascinating but I don’t want them crawling on me. The idea of a spider with legs that stretch out for a 1,000 light years hovering over me at night might give me scary dreams until I see how beautiful some spiders can be.

This “spider” lives in the skies of the southern hemisphere 180,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The more scientific names for the Tarantula Nebula are 30 Doradus or NGC 2070. Astronomers named the nebula after the largest spider on Earth because of the way the light patches resembled spider legs in their telescopes. The Tarantula Nebula is a star making area, one of the most active that we’ve seen. One day, far in the future, the Tarantula Nebula probably will form into a globular cluster, a place where thousands of stars lie close together. For now, scientists are interested in this area because Supernova 1987A exploded on the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula. Will more explode?

This image is based on data taken through the earthbound 1.5 meter telescope at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, ESO, La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Look for more animals hovering near or inside the Tarantula Nebula.