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OUR BEAUTIFUL UNIVERSE: VISTA images the Tarantula nebula

Published on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 10:04

VISTA image of the region around the Tarantula nebula. Credit: ESO


This new image from the UK-built Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) shows the vicinity of the Tarantula nebula, a vast cloud of gas and dust and the site of newly-forming stars. The region lies in a neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud or LMC, around 160 000 light years from the Sun.

VISTA was built by a consortium of 37 universities and completed in 2009, when it became part of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. With a 4.1-m diameter mirror, it surveys large areas of the sky at very high resolution. This new image was made using an infrared camera with an extraordinary 67 million pixels.

Above the centre is the Tarantula nebula itself, wrapped around the RMC136 cluster of massive stars. To the left and bottom are three other star-forming regions. The image also includes the site of the remnant of a supernova (the explosion that marks the end of the lives of massive stars) seen in 1987.

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