You’ve undoubtedly seen the smudge of the Orion Nebula hanging just below his belt thousands of times, but the most beautiful image yet of the celestial body was just released Wednesday.
The European Southern Observatory’s new VISTA telescope’s enormous field of view allows it to image the entire nebula at once. It’s been designed to capture near-infrared light. The longer wavelengths of light in that part of the spectrum allow rays to pass through dusty space without being scattering.
The Orion Nebula is located about 1,350 light-years from Earth. The cloud of gas and dust is a nursery for young stars. The red blobs in the features near the center of the image are young, growing stars that are hidden by dust in visible light.
VISTA was just placed into service late last year, so we can expect many more beautiful near-infrared images as it conducts its survey of the sky.
There are detailed close-up shots below, too.
Image: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit. The 341 MB XXXL version.
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The new VISTA infrared telescope is coming online… more images to follow!