A new image of the Omega Nebula reveals amazing detail in a cosmic landscape of gas clouds, dust and newborn stars. Captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory, this is one of the sharpest views of this stellar birthplace ever taken from Earth’s surface.
The gas and dark dust in stella nurseries like the Omega Nebula (M17) are the raw materials for creating a new generation of stars and planets. In this particular region of the nebula we see the central parts of this stellar nursery illuminated by the dazzlingly bright radiance of about 35 blue-white young stars. The nebula’s smoky-looking ribbons of dust are silhouetted against the pink glow of hydrogen gas, energised by intense ultraviolet radiation from the hot young stars.
This nebula is located about 6500 light years (1991 parsecs) away in the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). The image was taken with the FORS (FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument on Antu, one of the four Unit Telescopes of the VLT. A huge telescope and exceptionally steady air during the observations made the crispness of this wonderful image possible.