Caldwell 103

Better known as the Tarantula Nebula or 30 Doradus, Caldwell 103 the brightest star-forming region in our galaxy.


170,000 light-years

Apparent Magnitude




object type


Tones of rusty-brown, blue, white, and a smattering of red fill the scene. Left of center holds bright-white tendrils of gas and a star cluster. Surrounding the cluster are tendrils and clumps of rusty-brown gas. Upper-left background glows faintly dark blue, while the lower half of the image holds a black background. Many stars dot the scene, their light shining within or through the nebula.
30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region in our galactic neighbourhood and home to the most massive stars ever seen. The nebula resides 170 000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. No known star-forming region in our galaxy is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. The image comprises one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos and includes observations taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, combined with observations from the European Southern Observatory’s MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope which trace the location of glowing hydrogen and oxygen. The image is being released to celebrate Hubble's 22nd anniversary.
NASA, ESA, ESO, 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 (Sheffield), A. de Koter (Amsterdam), C. Evans (UKATC/STFC, Edinburgh), A. Herrero (IAC, Tenerife), N. Langer (AifA, Bonn), I. Platais (JHU) and H. Sana (Amsterdam)

Caldwell 103 is a treasure of the southern night sky. Also cataloged as NGC 2070 and often called the Tarantula Nebula or 30 Doradus, this chimerical structure is nestled in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. This Hubble image has caught the star-forming factory mid-frenzy, as it churns out stars at a furious pace. Individual members range from small, embryonic stars still shrouded in thick cocoons of gas and dust, to stellar behemoths doomed to live fast and die young in ferocious supernova explosions.

clouds of pink, white, brown, and grey fill the scene. Bright pinkish-white cloud fills the upper-left quadrant of the image. A few large, yellow stars and many, small white stars dot the scene.
Astronomers created this infrared mosaic of the Tarantula Nebula (Caldwell 103) using exposures from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and its Wide Field Camera 3 taken between 2011 and 2013.
NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (STScI)
Clouds of dark and light pink, and green fill the scene. Upper-left half of the image is pink, while the lower right half is more green. Lower-right corner holds the star cluster Hodge 301.
In the most active starburst region in the local universe lies a cluster of brilliant, massive stars, known to astronomers as Hodge 301, seen at the lower right of this Hubble image. Many of the stars in Hodge 301 are so old that they have exploded as supernovae, blasting material outward at speeds of almost 200 miles per second. This high-speed material plows into the surrounding Tarantula Nebula, shocking and compressing the gas into a multitude of sheets and filaments, seen in the upper left portion of the picture.
The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

In the Tarantula Nebula, the massive stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, which is winnowing away at the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born. Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, the brilliant stars may be triggering a new generation of offspring. When the ultraviolet radiation hits dense walls of gas, it creates shocks, which may generate a new wave of star birth. In fact, scientists believe that a shock wave from a nearby supernova may have caused the cloud of gas and dust that the Sun formed within to collapse, leading to the creation of our solar system. If correct, that means we owe our lives to the violent death of a massive neighboring star.

This 2011 image is one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble exposures and includes observations taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. The colors trace different elements in the hot gas that dominates the image, with red signifying hydrogen and blue representing oxygen.

The Tarantula Nebula was first recorded by astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751. Though it is located a staggering 170,000 light-years away, the Tarantula Nebula has a magnitude of 4, making it visible to the unaided eye and a spectacular target for binoculars. Through medium and large telescopes, the nebula's spider-like structure becomes apparent. To get the best view of the Tarantula, visit a dark-sky site in the Southern Hemisphere around the beginning of the year and look for it within the bounds of the Large Magellanic Cloud, located in the constellation Dorado.

Orange-white and bluish-white stars litter the black background.  Light blue cloud wisps and thicker white clouds across the bottom half of the image.
This Hubble image, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, shows both the spindly, spidery filaments of gas that inspired the Tarantula Nebula’s name, as well as the intriguing structure of “bubbles” forming the so-called Honeycomb Nebula (lower left).
ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgments: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)
Hubble Caldwell  Hubble Caldwell 101 Star Chart  Line drawings of constellations pinpoint the location of Caldwell 103.
This star chart for Caldwell 103 represents the view from mid-southern latitudes for the given month and time.
Image courtesy of Stellarium


Dwarf Galaxy - A small, faint galaxy with only millions to a few billion stars.

Magnitude - The brightness of an astronomical object, represented by a number; bright objects have low numbers on the magnitude scale, while dim objects have high numbers.

Nebula - An interstellar cloud of dust and gas; either a location where new stars are being forged or a cloud of material ejected into space by a dying star.

Supernova - The explosion of a massive star at the end its life, which ejects material into space and causes the star to temporarily brighten in our sky.

Explore Hubble's Caldwell Catalog

The following pages contain some of Hubble’s best images of Caldwell objects.

Stars with four diffraction spikes dot the scene against a black backdrop.

Caldwell 1

Also known as NGC 188, this group of stars formed from a large cloud of gas making the stars roughly…

Red cloud of dust with a bright white star in the center of it. Lots of reddish and orangish stars in the background.

Caldwell 2

This shell of gas is expanding outward, away from the dying star within.

Large grouping of bright white, blue and red stars. Lightly colored blue dust surrounds the stars.

Caldwell 3

This barred spiral galaxy was first spotted by British astronomer William Herschel in April 1793 in the constellation Draco.