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Several million young stars are vying for attention in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a nearby region of star birth known as 30 Doradus. Located about 170,000 light-years away in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula, 30 Doradus is part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way galaxy.
30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region visible in a neighboring galaxy and home to the most massive stars ever seen. No known star-forming region that is inside our Milky Way is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. It churns out stars at a furious pace over millions of years. The region's sparkling centerpiece is a giant, young star cluster called NGC 2070, only 2 million to 3 million years old.
The image reveals the stages of star birth, from young stars a few thousand years old and still wrapped in cocoons of dark gas, to behemoths that die young in supernova explosions. It also shows star clusters of various ages, from about 2 million to 25 million years old.
30 Doradus is also near enough to Earth for its contents and structures to be studied in detail. Astronomers using Hubble can resolve individual stars, which provide important information about the stars' birth and evolution. Because of this, 30 Doradus is a "Rosetta Stone" for understanding regions of intense star formation.
This image was released to celebrate Hubble's 22nd anniversary.
NASA, ESA, D. Lennon and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI), J. Anderson, S. E. de Mink, R. van der Marel, T. Sohn, and N. Walborn (STScI), N. Bastian (Excellence Cluster, Munich), L. Bedin (INAF, Padua), E. Bressert (ESO), P. Crowther (University of Sheffield), A. de Koter (University of Amsterdam), C. Evans (UKATC/STFC, Edinburgh), A. Herrero (IAC, Tenerife), N. Langer (AifA, Bonn), I. Platais (JHU), and H. Sana (University of Amsterdam)