ESO imagines a wonderful star factory to mark 60 years of collaboration

ESO imagines a wonderful star factory to mark 60 years of collaboration

ESO imagines a wonderful star factory to mark 60 years of collaboration

The Cone Nebula is part of a star-forming region of space, NGC 2264, about 2500 light-years away. Its pillar-like appearance is a perfect example of the shapes that can grow into giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known to create new stars. This spectacular new view of the nebula was captured with the FOcal Reducer and the Low Dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and released to mark the 60th anniversary of the nebula. ‘ESO. Credit: ESO

For 60 years, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has enabled scientists around the world to discover the secrets of the universe. We mark this milestone by bringing you a spectacular new image of a star factory, the Cone Nebula, taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

On October 5, 1962, five countries signed the convention to create the ESO. Now, six decades later and supported by 16 Member States and strategic partners, ESO brings together scientists and engineers from around the world to develop and operate advanced Earth observatories in Chile that are enabling groundbreaking astronomical discoveries.

On the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary, we are releasing this remarkable new image of the Cone Nebula, captured earlier this year with one of ESO’s telescopes and selected by ESO staff. This is part of a campaign marking 60 years of ESOe anniversary and taking place in late 2022, both on social media under the hashtag #ESO60years, and with local events in ESO Member States and other countries.

In this new image, we see center stage the seven-light-year pillar of the Cone Nebula, which is part of the larger star-forming region NGC 2264 and was discovered in the late 18th century. by astronomer William Herschel. In the sky, this horn-shaped nebula is found in the constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn), a surprisingly apt name.

Located less than 2,500 light-years away, the Cone Nebula is relatively close to Earth, making it a well-studied object. But this view is more dramatic than any seen before, as it showcases the dark, impenetrable cloudiness of the nebula in a way that makes it look like a mythological creature.

The Cone Nebula is a prime example of the pillar-like shapes that grow in the giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust known to create new stars. This type of pillar appears when massive, newly formed bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that carry away material from their vicinity. As this material is pushed back, gas and dust farther away from young stars are compressed into dense, dark, tall pillar-like shapes. This process helps create the Dark Cone Nebula, pointing away from the bright stars of NGC 2264.

In this image, obtained with the FOcal Reducer and Low Dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) on ESO’s VLT in Chile, hydrogen gas is shown in blue and sulfur gas in red. Using these filters makes the otherwise bright blue stars, which indicate recent star formation, appear almost golden, contrasting against the dark cone like sparklers.

This image is just one example of the many amazing and impressive observations that ESO telescopes have made over the past 60 years. Although this one was obtained for awareness purposes, the overwhelming majority of ESO’s telescope time is devoted to the scientific observations that allowed us to capture the first image of an exoplanet, study the hole black at the center of our home galaxy and find evidence that our universe is expanding.

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