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Lacaille I.2 (3,825 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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Tarantula Nebula

Lacaille I.2, Dunlop 142, NGC 2070, SL 633, ESO 57-6, 30 Dor Association, Looped Nebula, Bennett 35, Caldwell 103, Tarantula Nebula, h 2941, GC 1269

RA: 05h 38m 42s
Dec: −69° 06′ 0″

Con: Dorado
Ch: MSA:495, U2:445, SA:24


(reference key)

Type: bright nebula (HII region)

Mag: B=?, V=7.25

Size: ?
PA: ?

Image gallery

Sketches  (6)

Select a sketch and click the button to view

Photos  (8)

Select a photo and click the button to view

Historical observations

Lacaille (1755)

This nebula was discovered by Lacaille and included in his 1755 catalogue as Class I No. 2. In his half-an-inch 8x telescope he saw it as being "like the former [NGC 104: "like the nucleus of a fairly bright comet] but faint."

Dunlop, James (1827)

James Dunlop observed it from Paramatta, New South Wales, and included it as No. 142 in his catalogue of 1827. Using a 9-inch f/12 telescope, he described it as "a pretty large ill-defined nebula, of an irregular branched figure, with a pretty bright small star in the south side of the centre, which gives it the appearance of a nucleus. This is resolvable into very minute stars - Figure 4. is a very good representation of the nebula resolved. (N.B. The 30 Doradus is surrounded by a number of nebulae of considerable magnitudes, nine or ten in number, with the 30 Doradus in the centre.)"

John Herschel (1847) Cape Observations

Observed by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope with an 18-inch f/13 speculum telescope. His wrote after his first observation that it was "an assemblage of loops." He discussed the object at length: "This is one of the most singular and extraordinary objects which the heavens present, and derives no small addition to its intrinsic interest from its situation, which is among the thickest of the nebulae and clustering groups of the greater Nubecula, of whose total area it occupies one-five hundredth part. For these reasons, as well as because its real nature has been completely misunderstood, and its magnified appearance so strangely misrepresented in the only figure which I am aware to have been made of it as to convey an entirely erroneous impression both of its form and structure; I have taken great pains to give as nearly as possible a perfect representation of it as it appeared in the twenty-feet reflector on a great many occasions, but more especially on the 29th November, 1834, when a 'very careful drawing' was made of it by the eye alone, unaided by any micrometrical measures; and on the 21st and 22nd December, 1835, when the nebula was worked in from the telescope on a 'skeleton' previously prepared by an approximate reduction of the micrometrical measures of its principle stars, forming a chart, with a system of triangles, for its reception and for that of minute stars not susceptible of micrometric measurement, or not considered as of sufficient importance to be so measured. This is the only mode in which correct monographs can be executed of nebulae of this kind which consist of complicated windings and ill-defined members obliterated by the smallest illumination of the field of view; and in which the small stars, when very numerous, can be mapped down with tolerable precision. The following catalogue contains all the stars which I have been able distinctly to perceive within the area occupied by the nebula and nearly adjacent to it... [The catalogue contains 105 stars.] The stars thus scattered over the area occupied by this nebula may or may not be systematically connected with it, either as an individual object, or as part of the vast and complex system which constitutes the Nubecula. In respect of their arrangement there is nothing to distinguish them from those which occupy the rest of the area covered by the Nubecula, in which every variety of condensation and mode of distribution is to be met with. The nebula itself (as seen in the 20-feet reflector) is of the milky or irresolvable kind - quite as free from any mottling or incipient stellar appearance as any other nebula which I can remember to have examined with that instrument. Its situation in the Nubecula is immediately adjacent to two large and rich clusters [NGC 2042 and NGC 2055]. Mr Dunlop remarks that 'The 30 Doradus is surrounded by a number of nebulae of considerable magnitudes, nine or ten in number, with the 30 Doradus in the centre.', of which nebulae he gives a figured representation. For what objects these can be intended I am quite at a loss to conjecture, unless they be the brighter portions of the nebulous convolutions seen without their connecting enbranchments. But with this supposition their relative situations, intensities, and magnitudes in the figure alluded to, so far as I am able to judge, appear irreconcilable."

Burton, C. E. (1875)

On the Southern Nebulae 30 (Bode) Doradus, and the Nebula about eta Argus. MNRAS, 36, 69.

Published comments

Laustsen, S., Madsen, C. & West, R.M. (1987)

Exploring the Southern Sky: A pictorial atlas from the European Southern Observatory. Springer-Verlag.

Scanned image on disk. [1987EtSS.........0L], plate 56.

Doig, P. (1925)

Journal BAA, 36(3), Dec, p91.

"is probably the largest gaseous nebula know .. Shapley stars that if this nebula were situated in the position of M42 in the constellation of Orion (most of which it would apparently fill) 'it would have an integrated apparent magnitude of -7.5, and consequetly would cast strnog shadows on the surface of the Earth."

Bailey, S.I. (1908)

"neb and cluster, *s inv in B irregular neb; LMC 30 Dor."

Bailey, S.I. (1908) A catalogue of bright stars and nebulae. Ann.Harv.Coll.Obs., 60(8), 199.

Remarks, p.217: "a remarkable object. the spectrum is gaseous. See Remark on NGC 346. Many of the nebulous clusters or stars involved ni nebulae, in the Magellanic Clouds, resember 2070, but no other is as bright and many are extremely faint."

Hodge, P.W. & Lucke, P.B. (1970)

The nebula and cluster lie within the LMC O-association No. 100; the brightest star in the cluster is 11.7 mag. (Hodge, P.W. and Lucke, P.B., Astronomical Journal, Vol 75, No. 8, 1970, p933-937).


(Catalogues of Hydrogen Alpha Emission Stars and Nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds, Astrophysical Journal Supplement 2, 1956, p315) notes that his nebula LH N 120-157A is NGC 2070, which is equivalent to HD 38268 Pd. Henize's nebula includes NGC 2069. He describes 157A as measuring 15.4' x 17.7' (east-west by north-south), round with a considerably irregular outline and showing marked structural detail.

Shapley & Lindsay

("A Catalogue of Clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud", Irish Astronomical Journal, Vol. 6, 1963) give the dimensions as 5.7' x 4.5' and remark "bright scattered stars in Tarantula nebula."

Van den Bergh and Hagen (1968)

("UBV photometry of star clusters in the Magellanic Clouds", Astronomical Journal, Vol. 73, 1968) find that the integrated V magnitude through a 60'' diaphragm is 8.27. They remark: "This is the 30 Doradus cluster which is located in a 'hole' in the emission nebula Henize N 157A. The central star of this cluster was observed on two nights though a 15'' diaphragm yielding V=9.42 ... "

Photo index

by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 7/88 p32, Sky&Tel. 2/84 p135, Sky&Tel. 2/77 p99, Sky&Tel. 4/87 p373, Ast.Obj.for South.Tel. (Hartung, 1984), Sky&Tel. 6/87 p582, Sky&Tel. 7/79 p36, Astronomy mag. 6/87 p91, Universe Guide to Stars & Planets (Ridpath & Tirion) p258, Deep Sky #4 Fa83 p10, Deep Sky #14 Sp86 p37, Burnhams V2 p850.

Photo index

Photo index by Jim Lucyk gives for the 30 Doradus Nebula: Sky&Tel. 4/73 p211, Sky&Tel. 5/87 p470, Astronomy mag. 10/82 p15, Galaxies (Hodge,1986) p78

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 8.5 mag cluster+nebulosity in the LMC.

Press releases

ESO PR 1030: "Massive stars discovered".

ESO PR 1033: "New Tarantula image".

Modern observations

Brian Skiff

= 30 Dor = Tarantula Nebula

Also: SL 633; TM 5; R 136

15cm - oh dear. remarkable vbr intricately detailed neb and assoc clusters. neb enhances best w/UHC, [OIII] def somewhat less good. main body 12' diam w/`legs' N (= N2069), NW, E, well-def arc WSW, SSW, and S. R136 cl centered SE of intersection of all those legs. this cl shows 30 *s led by m10.0 R136a, 3' diam. R136a sl fuzzy, sub*ar. oc TM 5 consp S of arc of arm NW. it is well res, 40" diam, eight *s m12+. consp detached pieces of neb on S, E, and SW. BS, 18Nov1993, LCO.

Tsang, Simon

Simon Tsang notes that it "appeared well-resolved in a 13-inch reflector at 120x, with extensions going in six directions, some looping like an insect's legs. What eerie charm!"

Contemporary observations

Carol Botha

2007 March 17

Date: 2007 03 17, 22:50

Location: Betty's Bay

Instrument: 8-inch Dobsonian, 17mm eyepiece

Sky: Clear � heavy cloud bank far south.


Notes: Bright nebula � central region forming a half circle surrounding a bright star with lies in a dark region. Radiating from the centre the nebula forms loops with dark patches.

Kerneels Mulder

2008 October 25

Date and Time: 25 October 2008, 21:15
Location: Prince Albert (Western Cape, South Africa).
Instrument: Orion XT10 10" f/4.7 Dobsonian Reflector
Eyepieces: 10mm (120x, 26′ FOV), 25mm (48x, 1� FOV)
Sky Conditions: Clear. Seeing: 7/10. Transparency: Good

Using an O-III filter at 96x (25mm barlowed). Stunning! Irregular in shape. Nebulosity fills the 33′ FoV. Bright central region with one star close by. A dark lane runs from N to S at western edge, bisected by part of bright central region. Three dark patches visible within the nebula towards eastern edge of nebula. Brightness fades towards the edges. Dark lines and swirls are visible within the nebulosity.

At 240x the bright central region is very clear and shows distinctive "tarantula like shape".

Auke Slotegraaf

2002 July 01

Stellenbosch (Paradyskloof Rifle Range)

11x80 tripod-mounted binoculars (12.5-mm aperture mask)

Conditions: Dark moon. Slight easterly breeze. NELM approx 5.5 at the pole. Dew.

Bright, obvious glow, irregularly round, or rather elongated almost due north/south in the ratio 3:2. Seen directly, it is about 5arcmin long; with averted vision it grows to around 9arcmin. A very obvious object while sweeping over the area, looking like a globular cluster with a high degree of central concentration. Through the 12.5mm mask, it appears like a comet with a sharp nuclear region. Lacaille's description: my impression confirms his description.

1997 April 29

1997 April 29, 11x80 binoculars, Technopark, light and air pollution, 19:40. Large, bright patch in the LMC, round or slightly elongated.

This is definitely the most splendid of all the nebulae in the night sky. Viewing with a 10-inch f/5 reflector at 30x, the most striking impression is of the convoluted, textured loops of nebulous light which grow and change appearance as your attention wanders through the field of view. The brightest part of the nebulosity is roughly triangular in shape, and radiating outward from this are many large, elegant arms of gas, liberally scattered with stars. In the southern part of this brighter triangle lies the brightest star, a 10th mag primary. The other cluster members show as bright knots within the nebulosity.

1998 April 23

1998-04-23/24, Unitron 4-inch f/14.7 refractor. Die Boord.

Irregularly shaped nebulous patch, general elongated north-south 2.5' x 1.7'. The light is unevenly distributed over this area. With averted vision, the eastern region is brighter and sharply terminated, fading off to the west. Two bright knots; one in the south-east which is a B*, another due west of it, which looks like a S B patch or maybe a knot of unresolved stars. The Tarantula's legs are not apparent. However, due north of the bright star is a dark lane making a shallow indentation into the bright nebulosity. And north of this is a protruding portion of nebulosity, reaching for 30'' to the east.

Magda Streicher

1997 July 4

Location: Pietersburg South 23o 53. East 29o 28.

Sky conditions: Clear.

Date: 4 Julie 1997.

Field of view: 52.7 arc minutes.

ASSA-DSO - Report J

NGC 2070 mag 8 size 40

Very very large, extended diffuse bright gaseous nebula. Uneven dark patches with extended hazy filaments. Beautiful full field with lots of structural detail. Very starrich.

(no date)

12-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 2-inch 40mm SW 76x 53' fov; 2-inch 32mm SW 95x 42' fov; 2-inch 14mm UW 218x 23' fov; 2-inch 8.8mm UW 346x 15' fov)

The Tarantula nebula can be described by more than a hundred words and still more could be said about his magnificent object. Very large, extended diffuse bright gaseous nebula (95x). Lengthy soft cloud-like arms, gently enfolds a soft but strong inner part with dark stripy inlays embedded. The gas trails extend beautifully and increase to the end of the field of view (218x). It appears to me that the south is more complex with busy wimps of gas. Stars dotted its surface like raindrops. I normally shift from this wonder to the small star clusters NGC 2060, and further south to NGC 2044 from where I star hop to the position of Supernova 1987A, and sketched this area to monitor the spot which hopefully we will one day be able to observe its outcry (346x).

Richard Ford

2013 November 3rd, Sunday



Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.Haziness only visible on the horizon.Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian.

This bright nebula's filamentary structure has the shape of a black widow spider weaving it's cobwebs with its bright lanes being clearly seen at both 57x and 75x.This nebula has both areas of brightness blended in with the darker lanes of this nebula.This nebula measures 7.3'x 5.6'.

2010 February 14,Sunday


Instrument:12"Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

Sky Conditions:Dark moon and stars magnitude 6 and fainter are barely visible with the naked eye.

Transparency of the Sky:The most clear sky possible.

Seeing:Excellent clean sky,limited star flickering and brilliant objects.

Limiting Magnitude:6.5.

Size in Arc Minutes:14.2'.

A very dramatic sight to observe this nebula in a large telescope under crisp clear dark skies. This nebula has an irregular appearance of bright lanes and dust lanes.This nebula's spider-like structure takes the form of a tarantula.Close to centre of the nebula,I have noticed a demon-like face which resembles the devil staring at us.There is a bright lane that opens up into a dark lane.On the outskirts of this nebula there are dark lanes and bright lanes arranged into each other.No other structure is visible.All over there are areas of uneven brightness.

2010 February 14,Sunday

Andre de la Porte

2011 December 16, Friday

Location: Riviera, Pretoria

Time: 20:30-21:15

Telescope: Orion 10 In Dob

Limiting magnitude: 4.5

Sky conditions: Good seeing and transparency

Eyepiece: 10 mm + 2 X Barlow

Magnification: 240

Shape and main structure clearly visible. With Barlow sometimes fuzzy so I used it in conjunction with 10mm. More detail becomes visible in averted vision. Mottling in main area. Dark and clearer patches visible.

Pierre de Villiers

2016 February 05, Friday

Location: Bonnievale SSP

Telescope: 200-mm f/5 Skywatcher, 8-mm ep (0.57-deg fov)

Sky conditions: Excellent 9/10

Quality of observation: Good

Tarantula Nebula is an intruiging and apparently variable bright nebula. The "arms" of the spider vary with sky darkness and dark adaptation. Fascinating! m = 5, size core 20-arcmin (30x20-arcmin in catalogues).

Favourite lists

Lacaille's catalogue

The Messier objects

Dunlop's catalogue

The Bennett objects

The Caldwell list

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