Lobster Nebula: Gorgeous new view of a stellar nursery

Feb. 20, 2013 | 12:55 p.m.
nebula 1 Lobster Nebula: Gorgeous new view of a stellar nursery

This infrared view reveals the stellar nursery known as NGC 6357 in a new light. It was taken as part of the VISTA Variables in the Vía Láctea (VVV) survey. (SO / VVV Survey/ D. Minniti. Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo)

lobster nebula 2 Lobster Nebula: Gorgeous new view of a stellar nursery

A chart showing the location of NGC 6357 in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). NGC 6357 is highlighted with a red circle on the image. Although this stellar nursery is prominent in images, it is faint visually and needs a large telescope for a good view. (ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope)

lobster nebula 3 Lobster Nebula: Gorgeous new view of a stellar nursery

A visible light image of the Lobster Nebula created from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 images. (ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator & Digitized Sky Survey 2)

lobster nebula 4 Lobster Nebula: Gorgeous new view of a stellar nursery

This image compares infrared and visible views of the Lobster Nebula (NGC 6357). The visible light image (left) was created from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 images. The new infrared image (right) was taken with the VISTA telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory. In the infrared, the dust that obscures many stars becomes nearly transparent, revealing a whole host of new stars that are otherwise invisible. (ESO/VVV Survey/Digitized Sky Survey 2/ D. Minniti. Acknowledgement: Ignacio Toledo)

Scientists have released a new image of NGC 6357, also known as the Lobster Nebula.

The Lobster Nebula is located about 8,000 light years away in the constellation of Scorpius. In the image above, you can see the hot young stars surrounded by glowing gas and tendrils of space dust that make up this stellar nursery.

Previous images of the Lobster Nebula were created using visible light telescopes, which show a very different view of NGC 6357. In those images,it appears to take the shape of a lobster, hence the nebula’s funny name.

But this image, released by the European Southern Observatory on Wednesday, was created using infrared data from ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

It provides a more detailed view of the nebula, since the infrared radiation can penetrate the covering of dust that surrounds it.

“Infrared observations can reveal features that cannot be seen in visible light pictures, for example because an object is too cold, obscured by thick dust or is very distant, meaning that its light has been stretched toward the red end of the spectrum by the expansion of the universe,” the ESO wrote in a statement.

The ESO said that images like this one taken by VISTA will help scientists map our galaxy’s structure and explain how it was formed.

— Deborah Netburn


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