Hubble Space Telescope's astounding Tarantula Nebula photo

This just in: The universe is as beautiful as it is enormous

Where to begin?

The image above was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and shows the Tarantula Nebula, a region full of "star clusters, glowing gas, and thick dark dust," according to

As you might guess, the image wasn't captured with a cellphone camera. explains Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys for the Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project made the shot.

Why is this corner of the universe so important? The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project says it offers scientists "the rare opportunity to investigate the process of star formation in an environment that resembles in metallicity, dust content, and star formation rate, the extreme conditions of the early universe."

Slate's Bad Astronomy blog gets into the details. The Tarantula Nebula is "about 170,000 light years away" and is "one of the largest star-birth factories known, busily churning out hundreds of thousands of stars." For a ridiculously large photo, check this out from Slate:

The Tarantula is so fecund, in fact, that astronomers think it may actually be creating a globular cluster, a massive spherical collection of stars. Most of these are very old (like billions of years old), so being able to see one in the process of formation is a real boon.

For more on the Tarantula Nebula and its thousands of stars, check out this video from

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