The new 1.5-billion-pixel image shows the Running Chicken Nebula in unprecedented detail

The Running Chicken Nebula consists of several clouds, all of which we can see in this wide image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), hosted by ESO’s Paranal site. This 1.5-billion-pixel image spans an area of ​​the sky about 25 full Moons wide. (Original image: 3.9 Gb) The clouds shown in pale pink plumes are full of gas and dust, illuminated by the young and hot stars within them. Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Identification: CASU

While many holiday traditions include turkey feasts, soba noodles, latkes or Pan de Pascua, this year, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) brings you a chicken holiday. The so-called Running Chicken Nebula, home to young stars in the making, is revealed in incredible detail in this 1.5-billion-pixel image captured by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), hosted at ESO’s Paranal site in Chile.

This great stellar nursery is located in the constellation Centaurus (the Centaur), about 6,500 light-years from Earth. Young stars within this nebula emit intense radiation that makes the surrounding hydrogen gas glow pink.

The Running Chicken Nebula actually includes several regions, all of which we can see in this wide image covering an area of ​​the sky for about 25 full moons. The brightest region within the nebula is called IC 2948, where some people see the rooster’s head and others its back. Thin pastel contours are ethereal masses of gas and dust. Toward the center of the image, marked by a bright, vertical, almost pillar-like structure, is IC 2944. The brightest twinkling in this particular region is Lambda Centauri, a star visible to the naked eye more closer to us than the nebula itself.

There are, however, many young stars within IC 2948 and IC 2944 themselves and although they are bright, they are certainly not happy. As they spit out so much radiation, they carved their surroundings like a chicken. Some regions of the nebula, known as Bok globules, can withstand intense bombardment from the ultraviolet radiation that permeates this region. If you zoom in on the image, you can see them: small, dark, and dense pockets of dust and gas that line the nebula.

Other regions pictured here include, at the top right, Gum 39 and 40, and at the bottom right, Gum 41. Besides the nebulae, there are countless orange, white and blue stars, like fireworks in sky. In the whole of this picture, there are more wonders than can be described zoom in and pan around, and you have a feast for the eyes.

This image is a huge mosaic made up of hundreds of different frames that are neatly stitched together. The individual images are taken through filters that let the light through in different colors, which are then combined into the final result presented here.

The observations were made with the wide-field camera OmegaCAM of the VST, a telescope owned by Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and hosted by ESO at its Paranal site in Chile’s Atacama Desert which is ideally suited to mapping the southern sky. in visible light. The data used to create this mosaic were taken as part of the VST Photometric H Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane and Bulge (VPHAS+), a project aimed at better understanding the life cycle of stars.

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