Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula
Emission Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Click here for higher-resolution versions: 1580x1038  2568x1687  3951x2595


Tarantula Nebula: The Tarantula Nebula is a huge (more on that later) star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), an irregular dwarf galaxy orbiting our Milky Way (I have a photo I took years ago of the entire LMC here, showing the Tarantula Nebula toward the upper left of the image). Yes, this nebula is not even in our galaxy, and yet is is so huge that it fills the field of view on my (full-frame) camera! This nebula is the largest and most complex star forming region that can be photographed by amateurs. The spidery part of the nebula is about 1,000 light-years across; the nebula is about 160,000 light years from us. Were it placed at the distance of Milky Way's Orion Nebula (a well-known huge star-forming region in the Milky Way which is only 1,500 light-years from us, and the nearest stellar nursery to Earth--we see it in our sky as the sword of Orion), it would cover about 30 degrees of the sky (about equal to 60 full moons), and it's so bright it would cast shadows!

The arms of the Tarantula nebula surround NGC 2070, a star cluster that contains some of the brightest, most massive stars known (most visible in the center of the nebula), and is estimated to have a mass 450,000 times that of our sun. Massive stars have a short lifespan; there have been a number of supernovae in the vicinity of the Tarantula Nebula, including the very recent Supernova 1987A, which I was surprised and pleased to see shows up in my image; it's highlighted in this version of this image (it's the tiny pink piece between the two small stars, toward the right center of the image; there's a red arrow pointing right to it on the image).


Technical Information:

(HaOIIL)RGB: 600:480:460:180:280:200; L, R, G and B consisted of combinations of 20-minute unbinned images; Ha and OIII consisted of 30-minute unbinned images. The luminance layer consists of a combination of the luminance data, the Ha data, and the OIII data; the red channel consists of a combination of the red data and the Ha data; the green channel consists of a combination of the green data and a bit of the OIII data; the blue channel consists of a combination of the blue data and a bit (more than in the green channel) of the OIII data.

Equipment: RC Optical Systems 14.5 inch Ritchey–Chrétien carbon fiber truss telescope, with ion-milled optics, at about f/9, and an SBIG STL-11000M with internal filter wheel ( Astrodon type II filter set), guided by a MOAG/AO-L combination, all riding on a Bisque Paramount ME German Equatorial Mount.

Image Acquisition/Camera Control: Maxim DL, controlled with ACP, working in concert with TheSky v6.

Processing: All images calibrated (darks and dawn flats), aligned, and combined in Pixinsight. Color combine in Pixinsight. Finish work (curves and levels, adjustment of contrast, High Pass Filter and Smart Sharpen of the luminance layer) was done in Photoshop CS5.

Location: Data acquired remotely from Fair Dinkum Skies, Moorook, South Australia.

Date: Images taken on many nights in October and November of 2015. Image posted November 19, 2015.

CCD Chip temperature: -5C

Copyright 2015 Mark de Regt

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