PICS: Glimpses of a 'star factory' at work in the Milky Way

2017-01-04 13:28
An image taken from the VISTA infrared survey telescope shows part of the largest infrared high-resolution mosaic of Orion ever created. (Antares, European Southern Observatory, AFP)

An image taken from the VISTA infrared survey telescope shows part of the largest infrared high-resolution mosaic of Orion ever created. (Antares, European Southern Observatory, AFP)

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Paris - The European Space Agency on Wednesday released stunning images of baby stars taking shape inside the Milky Way's Orion nebula.

The massive Orion A molecular cloud is the "star factory" closest to Earth, and has given astronomers a front-row seat to observe how stellar objects come into being.

A nebula is a widely scattered cloud of interstellar gas and dust.

Also known as Messier 42, the Orion nebula is some 1350 light years from Earth, and has a mass 2 000 times greater that the Sun.

Very young stars cannot be seen in the visible light spectrum.

But ESO's VISTA telescope in Chile - the largest in the world dedicated to surveying the heavens - pierced the dust that shrouds them by zeroing in on infrared wavelengths.

The new image survey "allows the earliest evolutionary phases of young stars within nearby molecular clouds to be systematically studied," ESO said in a statement.

The project has so far identified nearly 800 000 new stars, young "stellar objects" and distant galaxies.

The Orion nebula, visible with the naked eye in the night sky, was first scientifically described in the early 17th century.

In 1789, British astronomer William Herschel - using a home-made two-metre telescope - prophetically described nebula such as Orion as "the chaotic material of future Suns."


A mosaic of images taken from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at the European Southern Observatory Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. It covers the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1350 light-years from Earth, and reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds. (Antares, European Southern Observatory, AFP)

Read more on:    esa  |  space
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