Skygazers the world over know and love the Lagoon Nebula's delicate swirls. Now a new image from the Paranal Observatory reveals it in stunning detail.
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile captured a new image of the Lagoon Nebula. Also known as Messier 8, this dense, brightly colored cloud of dust and gas in the constellation Sagittarius stretches about 100 light-years across. The stellar nursery provides great specimens for the study of young star clusters lying in gaseous columns of the nebula’s vast architecture.
The full image, a stunning 16,000 pixels wide, is just one product of a suite of public sky surveys scanning the night sky in visible and infrared light. The surveys’ goals range from the near to the very far, including mapping the Milky Way’s structure to searching for brilliant quasars in the early universe.
While the Lagoon Nebula was not the target of the VPHAS+ survey, which looks at much larger regions of our galaxy in visible light, it was a beautiful bonus. VPHAS+, and the other surveys currently under way at the Very Large Telescope, aim to provide a trove of data that is open and available to the global astronomical community through ESO’s archive.
You can explore this zoomable version of the image to see even finer details of the nebula’s dusty design.