Friday, October 7, 2011

A Tarantula on SALTICAM

This astronomy gig calls for pretty pictures now & again so here's one of the Tarantula Nebula (aka 30 Doradus or NGC 2070), a huge star formation region in one of our neighbouring galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (about 160,000 light years away).  If this complex were as nearby as the famous Orion Nebula, it would be bright enough to cast shadows on Earth!  The stars in the central cluster are about 1-2 million years old & emit energetic UV radiation that excites the surrounding clouds of hydrogen & causes the gas to glow..


This colour composite image is the result of six 5-second frames obtained through 3 filters, known as SDSSg, SDSSr & SDSSi.  These filters transmit green, red & near-infrared light respectively so this isn't quite what the nebula would look like with the naked eye.  The plan was to fill in the gap between SALTICAM's two CCD chips by combining images with the object on either side of the frame, but unfortunately we moved the telescope a bit too far so we get to keep the gaps this time!

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