I’m not sure why, but the European Southern Observatory has decided to give their web servers and bandwidth a real workout with their latest photo release. But I’m glad they did.
The image attached with this story is of the Tarantula Nebula (aka 30 Doradus). This is an enormous nebula located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 170,000 light years away. The nebula is thought to contain half a million times the mass of the Sun in gas, dust and stars. It got its name because the brightest patches of nebulosity resemble the legs of a spider.
Unfortunately, only skywatchers from the southern hemisphere can see it in the night sky as it’s below the horizon for northern folks.
Observers captured 4 separate images of the nebula, and then stitched them together to create a single, 256 megapixel image that covers a full degree of the sky – imagine 4 full Moons in a little square in the sky. At this high resolution, there are all kinds of objects visible, such as the remnant from supernova 1987A. You can also find the Honeycomb Nebula, with a distinctive bubble-like structure.
If you want a screen desktop quality version, I suggest you go with the normal resolution, which is 910 x 800 pixels. But you can, and I don’t recommend this, download a version at 8952 x 7822 pixels (211 MB!?!). Maybe print out hundreds of pieces and make a wall mural.