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OUR BEAUTIFUL UNIVERSE: Messier 17 through the Very Large Telescope

Published on Wednesday, 03 November 2010 15:48

 

ESO_-_M17
Composite image of M17 made using data from the VLT. Credit: ESO / R. Chini

 

Using data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, astronomers have made a super-detailed mosaic of Messier 17 (M17), a cloud of gas and dust (nebula) in the constellation of Sagittarius.

 M17 is about 40 light years across, 6000 light years from the Earth and a popular target for amateur astronomers. The image covers a region 15 light years wide.

The observations used to assemble this image were made at near-infrared wavelengths. In the centre is a cluster of massive stars that emit ultraviolet radiation which makes the surrounding gas glow and to the lower right is a cloud of molecular gas. Infrared light detected in this image is readily able to pass through the dust grains that obscure some of the nebula in visible light.

Find out more about this and other images from the VLT on the ESO website.