The glowing jumble of gas clouds visible in new image make up a huge stellar nursery nicknamed the Prawn Nebula. Taken using the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, this may well be the sharpest picture ever taken of this object. It shows clumps of hot new-born stars nestled in among the clouds that make up the nebula. This image also contains information from images of this object taken by Martin Pugh.
A glowing jumble of clouds nicknamed the Prawn Nebula containing clumps of hot new-born stars is visible in a new, sharp image taken with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) VLT Survey Telescope in Chile as part of a public survey led by University of Hertfordshire astronomers.
Located around 6000 light-years from Earth, the Prawn Nebula is around 250 light-years across, covering an area of sky equivalent to four times that of the full Moon. Despite this huge size it has often been overlooked by observers due to its faintness and because most of its light is emitted at wavelengths where the human eye is not sensitive.
Janet Drew, professor of astronomy at the University of Hertfordshire and Principal Investigator of the VPHAS+ public survey, said: “ This fascinating image of the Prawn Nebula is one of the largest single images released by ESO and is the first of many likely to come from our survey of the entire southern plane of the Milky Way.
“This high-resolution digital public survey is using the power of the VLT Survey Telescope to search for new objects including young stars, planetary nebulae and distant, very luminous massive stars. Uncovering more of these rare object types will provide a springboard to a better understanding of how stars evolve and of how the Milky Way’s stellar disc is organised.”
The very sharp VLT Survey Telescope images were further enhanced to bring out the colour by including additional high quality imaging through other filters taken by Martin Pugh, a very skilled amateur astronomer observing from Australia using 32-centimetre and 13-centimetre telescope.
The Prawn Nebula is found in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). Known formally as IC 4628, it is a huge region filled with gas and clumps of dark dust. These gas clouds are star-forming regions, producing brilliant hot young stars. In visible light, these stars appear as a blue-white colour, but they also emit intense radiation in other parts of the spectrum — most notably in the ultraviolet which humans cannot see.
Source: University of Hertfordshire
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