The the clear skies and ideal viewing conditions on the isolated hills of Chile’s Atacama Desert have once again unveiled the hidden beauty of the cosmos.
The European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal has captured one of the clearest – and most stunning – pictures of the Omega Nebula ever obtained from Earth.
Situated between 5,000 and 6,000 light-years from earth, the impressive nebula is home to some of the youngest and largest active stars in the Milky Way and scientists believe it will continue to spawn new stars.
The latest image reveals a series of extremely bright, bluish-white stars that have recently been formed.
The other major features in the picture are large, pink clouds at the center of the star cradle, showing extraordinary detail of cosmic gases and space dust.
The reddish tinged gases and obscured space dust shown clearly in the latest photo are the raw materials that will form the next generation of stars in this galactic hot spot. The dominant red color comes from hydrogen gas which glows under the influence of intensive ultraviolet rays emitted by nearby stars.
The image was obtained by the FORS (FOcal Reducer and Spectograph) instrument which is installed in Antu, one of four telescope units that make up the VLT.
Astronomers say that despite some clouds, the skies in the Chilean desert had been stable during the observation period.
The resulting image is one of the first photos taken as part of the ESO’s Cosmic Gems initiative, which aims to build a collection of visually attractive pictures for educational purposes.
With a diameter of more than 15 light-years, the Omega Nebulosa is also known as the the Swan, the Horseshoe and the Lobster Nebula, while scientists also refer to it as Messier 17 (M17) y NGC 6618.
Previous high-quality images of the Omega Nebula have been taken by the New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the nearby La Silla Observatory.
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