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Into the Tarantula's web
Posted: 12 August 2010

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Using the UK built VISTA telescope, astronomers have captured a new view of the Tarantula Nebula, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

A wide-field view of the region around the Tarantula Nebula. Image: ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud Survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

ESO's VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is a four metre telescope based in Chile – its infrared ability enables astronomers to probe the thick dust that enshrouds much of the nebula, which is known to have an unusually high rate of star formation.

Zooming in on some of the Tarantula Nebula's neighbours. Image: ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud Survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

“This view is of one of the most important regions of star formation in the local Universe –the spectacular 30 Doradus star-forming region, also called the Tarantula Nebula,” says team leader Maria-Rosa Cioni of the University of Hertfordshire. “At its core is a large cluster of stars called RMC 136, in which some of the most massive stars known are located.”

VISTA's look at the nebula (right) compared with a visible light look (left). The infrared wavelengths of the VISTA survey penetrate the obscuring interstellar dust to reveal stars at the centre of the nebulae more easily. Image: ESO/M-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud Survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

The imaging stint also reveals many other cosmic sights in the region, from neighbouring star cluster NGC 2100 to supernova remnant SN 1987A. Star clusters NGC 2080, 2081 and 2083 all lie nearby too.

The image is part of ESO's VISTA Magellanic Cloud (VMC) Survey, which is set to scan an area covering 184 square degrees. “The VISTA images will allow us to extend our studies beyond the inner regions of the Tarantula into the multitude of smaller stellar nurseries nearby, which also harbor a rich population of young and massive stars,” says team member Chris Evans. “Armed with the new, exquisite infrared images, we will be able to probe the cocoons in which massive stars are still forming today, while also looking at their interaction with older stars in the wider region.”

The VMC Survey is one of six surveys that will occupy VISTA's first five years of operations.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


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