VST captures three-in-one

June 14, 2017, ESO
Two of the sky's more famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbour in this enormous three gigapixel image from ESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST). On the right lies the faint, glowing cloud of gas called Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) is in the centre, and the Omega Nebula (Messier 17) to the left. This cosmic trio makes up just a portion of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are springing to life and illuminating their surroundings. Credit: ESO

Two of the sky's more famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbour in this enormous new three gigapixel image from ESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST). On the right lies Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula is in the centre, and the Omega Nebula to the left. This cosmic trio makes up just a portion of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are springing to life and illuminating their surroundings.

Sharpless 2-54 and the Eagle and Omega Nebula e are located roughly 7000 light-years away—the first two fall within the constellation of Serpens , while the latter lies within Sagittarius. This region of the Milky Way houses a huge cloud of star-making material. The three [nebulae] - indicate where regions of this cloud have clumped together and collapsed to form ; the energetic light from these stellar newborns has caused ambient gas to emit light of its own, which takes on the pinkish hue characteristic of areas rich in hydrogen.

Two of the objects in this image were discovered in a similar way. Astronomers first spotted bright star clusters in both Sharpless 2-54 and the Eagle Nebula, later identifying the vast, comparatively faint gas clouds swaddling the clusters. In the case of Sharpless 2-54, British astronomer William Herschel initially noticed its beaming star cluster in 1784. That cluster, catalogued as NGC 6604, appears in this image on the object's left side. The associated very dim gas cloud remained unknown until the 1950s, when American astronomer Stewart Sharpless spotted it on photographs from the National Geographic-Palomar Sky Atlas.

The Eagle Nebula did not have to wait so long for its full glory to be appreciated. Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux first discovered its bright , NGC 6611, in 1745 or 1746. A couple of decades later, French astronomer Charles Messier observed this patch of sky and also documented the nebulosity present there, recording the object as Messier 16 in his influential catalogue.

As for the Omega Nebula, de Chéseaux did manage to observe its more prominent glow and duly noted it as a in 1745. However, because the Swiss astronomer's catalogue never achieved wider renown, Messier's re-discovery of the Omega Nebula in 1764 led to its becoming Messier 17, the seventeenth object in the Frenchman's popular compendium.

The observations from which this image was created were taken with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST), located at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile. The huge final colour image was created by mosaicing dozens of pictures—each of 256 megapixels—from the telescope's large-format OmegaCAM camera. The final result, which needed lengthy processing, totals 3.3 gigapixels, one of the largest images ever released by ESO.

Explore further: A cosmic rose with many names

Related Stories

A cosmic rose with many names

September 23, 2015

This new image of the rose-colored star forming region Messier 17 was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is one of the sharpest images showing the ...

A cluster within a cluster

April 25, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The star cluster NGC 6604 is shown in this new image taken by the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is often overlooked in favour of its more ...

The wings of the Seagull Nebula

February 6, 2013

(Phys.org)—This new image from ESO shows a section of a cloud of dust and glowing gas called the Seagull Nebula. These wispy red clouds form part of the "wings" of the celestial bird and this picture reveals an intriguing ...

The smoky pink core of the Omega Nebula

January 4, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new image of the Omega Nebula, captured by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), is one of the sharpest of this object ever taken from the ground. It shows the dusty, rose-coloured central parts of this famous ...

An Eagle of Cosmic Proportions

July 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Today ESO has released a new and stunning image of the sky around the Eagle Nebula, a stellar nursery where infant star clusters carve out monster columns of dust and gas.

Recommended for you

Solar-powered rover approaching 5,000th Martian dawn

February 16, 2018

The sun will rise on NASA's solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

February 15, 2018

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, dark storm - once big enough to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Portugal - is shrinking out of existence as seen ...

Kepler scientists discover almost 100 new exoplanets

February 15, 2018

Based on data from NASA's K2 mission, an international team of scientists has confirmed nearly 100 new exoplanets. This brings the total number of new exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to almost 300.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.