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Tarantula Nebula Animations
Click for low-resolution animation
Tour of Tarantula Nebula
Quicktime MPEG
30 Doradus is a place where stars are born literally. This region, which is also known as the Tarantula Nebula, is located about 160,000 light years from Earth. Within 30 Doradus, giant stars are producing intense radiation and powerful winds that are blowing off material from their surfaces. These stellar winds and blasts from supernova explosions have heated some of the gas to millions of degrees. The Chandra X-ray Observatory can detect this gas in the form of X-ray light. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust that can be seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope as infrared emission. When combined, the data from these two telescopes reveal an amazing view of this region that is found in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbor galaxy to our Milky Way.
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(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Click for low-resolution animation
Super-Sized Space Spider!
Quicktime MPEG
Don't worry if you have a phobia of spiders, it is safe to keep watching! That's because this wonderful picture of a star-forming region called the Tarantula Nebula doesn't show the bright lines of gas that usually make it look like it has the legs of a spider.

Instead, this picture gives us an unusual view of the Tarantula Nebula. Astronomers had to combine observations made with two space telescopes to create this photo. It shows the X-ray radiation given off by very hot gas (the blue parts, captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory) and the cooler gas that surrounds it (the orange parts, taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope).

The Tarantula Nebula is already big - it would take light about 650 years to cross from one end to the other - but it's getting even bigger! Astronomers have two ideas about what is causing the Tarantula's growth: Some astronomers think that explosions of the hot gas (shown in blue) are making it bigger, while others think that radiation from massive stars is causing the gas in the nebula to expand. To find out what is going on once and for all, astronomers need to take another look at this region.

When astronomers observe the Tarantula Nebula again, they won't be looking to prove their own ideas right. All they can do is look at what their observations tell them - even if it means acknowledging that they had been wrong.
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(Credit: NASA/CXC/April Jubett)


Return to Tarantula Nebula (November 10, 2011)