Several million young stars are vying for attention in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a raucous stellar breeding ground in 30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula. Early astronomers nicknamed the nebula because its glowing filaments resemble spider legs. 30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region visible in a neighboring galaxy and home to the most massive stars ever seen. The nebula resides 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. No known star-forming region in our galaxy is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. The image reveals the stages of star birth, from embryonic stars a few thousand years old still wrapped in cocoons of dark gas to behemoths that die young in supernova explosions. 30 Doradus is a star-forming factory, churning out stars at a furious pace over millions of years. Hubble shows star clusters of various ages, from about 2 million to about 25 million years old.The massive stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, which is etching away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born. The image reveals a fantasy landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys. Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, the brilliant stars also may be triggering a successive generation of offspring. When the radiation hits dense walls of gas, it creates shocks, which may be generating a new wave of star birth.The colors represent the hot gas that dominates regions of the image. Red signifies hydrogen gas and blue, oxygen.
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