The Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) is an H II region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). It was originally thought to be a star, but in 1751 Nicolas Louis de Lacaille recognized its nebular nature. The Tarantula Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8. Considering its distance of about 49 kpc (160,000 light-years), this is an extremely luminous non-stellar object. Its luminosity is so great that if it were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, the Tarantula Nebula would cast shadows. In fact it is the most active starburst region known in the Local Group of galaxies. 30 Doradus has at its centre the star cluster NGC 2070 which includes the compact concentration of stars known as R136 that produces most of the energy that makes the nebula visible. The estimated mass of the cluster is 450,000 solar masses, suggesting it will likely become a globular cluster in the future. In addition to NGC 2070, the Tarantula Nebula contains a number of other star clusters including the much older Hodge 301. The most massive stars of Hodge 301 have already exploded in supernovae.
Author: Paul Storey
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