NASA‘s Webb Telescope continues to delight and amaze with the images it’s sending back and took to social media to share. This time it’s captured a phenomenal sight. Spreading out in leggy wisps of cosmic dust and stars like a celestial arachnid. The stellar nursery 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula.
Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy, 161,000 light-years from Earth, this is the largest star-forming region in the collection of galaxies nearest the Milky Way, called the Local Group. Previously obscured by cosmic dust, the Webb Telescope is able to see through the noise to take these phenomenal images.
This nebula contains several young blue stars at its center, creating a hollow from the sheer levels of radiation they’re exuding. The rest of the nebula, composed of gas and space dust, spiders out in legs that give it the unique arachnoid shape and the affectionate name.
What fascinates astronomers so much about this particular nebula is that it is furiously producing stars. It’s made up of a different chemical composition to the Milky Way. The nebula displays similar properties to what’s known as the universe’s “cosmic noon”. Otherwise known as the universe a few billion years younger and making stars like it was going out of style.
These images are not only beautiful, they’re incredibly helpful. The Tarantula Nebula is the easiest to see of the Local Group. And now the clarity of the Webb Telescope’s images allows them to take a much closer look at how the universe was composed and behaved when it was younger. And there’s something delightfully eldritch about saying that there’s a big cosmic spider in space making stars.