January 10, 2014
NASA’s Hubble Telescope Looks Deep Inside The Tarantula Nebula
[ Watch the Video: Hubble Images Tarantula Nebula In New Detail ]
Gerard LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Program from NASA has revealed some fascinating new images deep inside the Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Daradus. This nebula is positioned inside the Large Magellanic Cloud 170,000 light-years away and contains some 800,000 stars and protostars.
Upon completion of the program, a huge catalog of stellar properties will be produced, and astronomers will be able to utilize the information for the study of star formation.
The near-infrared vision of the Hubble Space Telescope captured these sparkling images of newly formed star,s usually hidden in clouds of dust. Near-infrared light used by Hubble can penetrate these clouds and reveal what’s embedded within them.
Results from the program were published in the Astronomical Journal and were released January 9, 2014, and exhibited at the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC, according to spacetelescope.org.
Images of the Tarantula Nebula have been captured before; in 2004, 2010, 2011 and 2012. However, none before have been so detailed as the most recent imagery. The images were captured using two cameras: Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advance Camera for Survey.
An HII region is a large cloud made up of partially ionized hydrogen where new stars are being born, and the Tarantula Nebula is part of such a cloud. A star cluster known as R136 is positioned left of center on the captured image. It was originally identified as a single star, but now astronomers realize it is a cluster of stars.
R136 has such a brilliant spectacle of light that it adds to making the Tarantula Nebula so observable. Astronomers believe that R136 will eventually orbit around the center of the galaxy it is in.
The Tarantula Nebula contains the nearest observable super-cluster of stars, and star formation within the system began tens of millions of years ago.
Principal investigator and astronomer Elena Sabbi, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, said, “Because of the mosaic's exquisite detail and sheer breadth, we can follow how episodes of star birth migrate across the region in space and time.”
Star birth in the nebula may be fueled by gas being pulled from a small nearby galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Researchers hope to answer the question, 'Do supermassive stars form in clusters, or are they born in isolation?'
Sabbi produced an iBook called “Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn.” It is aimed at children who are visually impaired and focuses on stellar evolution.