The Tarantula Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8. Considering its distance of about 49 kpc (160,000 light-years), this is an extremely luminous non-stellar object. Its luminosity is so great that if it were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, the Tarantula Nebula would cast shadows. In fact it is the most active starburst region known in the Local Group of galaxies. It is also one of the largest such regions in the Local Group with an estimated diameter of 200 pc. The nebula resides on the leading edge of the LMC where ram pressure stripping, and the compression of the interstellar medium likely resulting from this, is at a maximum.
30 Doradus has at its centre the star cluster NGC 2070 which includes the compact concentration of stars known as R136 that produces most of the energy that makes the nebula visible. The estimated mass of the cluster is 450,000 solar masses, suggesting it will likely become a globular cluster in the future. In addition to NGC 2070, the Tarantula Nebula contains a number of other star clusters including the much older Hodge 301. The most massive stars of Hodge 301 have already exploded in supernovae.
The closest supernova observed since the invention of the telescope,Supernova 1987A, occurred in the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula. There is a prominent supernova remnant enclosing the open cluster NGC 2060, but the remnants of many other supernovae are difficult to detect in the complex nebulosity.
^ abLebouteiller, V.; Bernard-Salas, J.; Brandl, B.; Whelan, D. G.; Wu, Yanling; Charmandaris, V.; Devost, D.; Houck, J. R. (June 2008). "Chemical Composition and Mixing in Giant H II Regions: NGC 3603, 30 Doradus, and N66". The Astrophysical Journal680 (1): 398–419. arXiv:0710.4549. Bibcode:2008ApJ...680..398L. doi:10.1086/587503.
^Massey, P ; Hunter, D. (January 1998). "Star Formation in R136: A Cluster of O3 Stars Revealed by Hubble Space Telescope Spectroscopy". The Astrophysical Journal493 (1): 180. Bibcode:1998ApJ...493..180M. doi:10.1086/305126.