Tarantula Nebula, largest known nebula
Tarantula Nebula or NGC 2070
|Updated June 01, 2013
The Tarantula Nebula or NGC 2070 or 30 Doradus is a gigantic factory-star 1000 light-years wide. This HII region (region of ionized hydrogen) is one of the most interesting astronomical objects in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the most important neighboring galaxy of the Milky Way. It is the largest emission nebula known, another nebula, NGC 2060 nebula occupies its center. Located at a distance of about 170,000 light-years, it can be seen in the constellation of Dorado in the southern sky. The Tarantula Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 5, it is easily visible to the naked eye as it belongs to another neighboring galaxy of the Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Tarantula is 100 times farther than the famous stellar nursery, the Orion Nebula in our own Galaxy. If the Tarantula Nebula was in our Galaxy, the distance of the Orion Nebula (remote only 1 350 light-years), it would cover an area twice as large as the Big Dipper almost a quarter of sky and be visible even in daylight. The Tarantula Nebula contains over half a million times the mass of the Sun, this large and flamboyant cloud hosts some of the most massive stars known. This is actually the HII region's most active local group and one of the largest with NGC 604 in the Triangulum Galaxy.
Astronomers have discovered this nebula in July 2010, the biggest star in the universe (R136a1). If it is not a star cluster, then it would be 265 times more massive than the Sun and a million times brighter. However the biggest star the sky is now the hypergiant red in the constellation of the Dog, called VY Canis Majoris, 1400 times larger than our Sun, it is located away al 5000. The red hypergiants are rare because they are at the limit of brightness of -9.5, which is still 500 000 times the Sun's luminosity.
Image: Tarantula Nebula or NGC 2070, the largest known nebula in our sky. The hydrogen of the cosmic spider is shown in red and pink, while oxygen is green. Red and pink gas indicates that it is an massive emission nebula. Area brightest star to the left of center is called R136a and contains many massive stars, these stars are the hottest and brightest known.