NASA | MSFC | SAO | Chandra X-ray Observatory | 2023 Jan 09
The largest and brightest region of star formation in the Local Group of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is called 30 Doradus (or, informally, the Tarantula Nebula). Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbor galaxy to the Milky Way, 30 Doradus has long been studied by astronomers who want to better understand how stars like the Sun are born and evolve. ...X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State Univ./L. Townsley et al.;
- These images show 30 Doradus, otherwise known as the Tarantula Nebula, a region of active star formation in a neighbouring galaxy. In X-ray data collected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the brightest and most prominent blue cloud appears at the center of the image, roughly shaped like an upward pointing triangle. Darker X-ray clouds can be found near the right and left edges of the image. The red and orange gas clouds represent infrared data from the James Webb Space Telescope. These patches resemble clouds of roiling fire. The brightest and most prominent infrared cloud appears at our upper left, roughly shaped like a downward pointing triangle. Wispy white clouds outline the upward pointing bright blue triangle in the center of the image. Inside this frame is a brilliant gleaming star with six long, thin, diffraction spikes. Beside it is a cluster of smaller bright specks showing young stars in the nebula.
IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/JWST ERO Production Team
This new composite image combines the X-ray data from Chandra observations of 30 Doradus with an infrared image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope that was released in the fall of 2022. The X-rays (royal blue and purple) reveal gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by shock waves — similar to sonic booms from airplanes — generated by the winds from massive stars. The Chandra data also identify the remains of supernova explosions, which will ultimately send important elements such as oxygen and carbon into space where they will become part of the next generation of stars.
The infrared data from JWST (red, orange, green, and light blue) show spectacular canvases of cooler gas that provide the raw ingredients for future stars. JWST’s view also reveals “protostars,” that is, stars in their infancy, just igniting their stellar engines. The chemical composition of 30 Doradus is different from most of the nebulas found in the Milky Way. Instead it represents the conditions in our galaxy that existed several billion years ago when stars were forming at a much faster pace than astronomers see today. This, combined with its relative proximity and brightness, means that 30 Doradus provides scientists with an opportunity to learn more about how stars formed in our galaxy in the distant past.