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Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula is one of the larger nebulae visible in the sky, which is a remarkable fact granted that it doesn't even lie within our own Galaxy! It is the dominant feature in our satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which is visible only from the Southern Hemisphere. This giant cloud is over 1000 light years across; if it were as close as the Orion Nebula, it would fill nearly half of the nighttime sky! It is one of the largest known star formation regions anywhere, and it's almost in our back yard.

At the core of the Tarantula nebula can be found the massive star cluster 30 Doradus, so compact that it was once thought to be a single supermassive star. The light from this cluster heats the surrounding gas, causing it to glow brightly.

This image mosaic covers a square region 40 arcminutes (2/3 of a degree) on a side, about the size of a pea held at arm's length. Some of the brighter stars in this image are local, foreground stars, while most of the fainter ones belong to the much more distant LMC. The clump of bright stars on the left side are one of many clusters recently formed in this region.