ESO Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary with Stunning View of Cone Nebula

by johnsmith

On October 5, 1962, five countries agreed to create the European Southern Observatory (ESO) through the signature of a convention. Now, six decades later and supported by 16 Member States — Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom — as well as our host and partner state Chile, and strategic partner Australia, ESO continues to bring together people from across the globe to develop and operate advanced ground-based observatories that enable breakthrough astronomical discoveries. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary, the ESO astronomers have released a spectacular new image of the Cone Nebula.

This new view of the Cone Nebula was captured with the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Image credit: ESO.

The Cone Nebula is an HII region located 2,700 light-years away in the constellation of Monoceros.

The nebula was discovered by the German-born British astronomer William Herschel on December 26, 1785.

The object is approximately 7 light-years long and is part of the larger star-forming region NGC 2264.

“The Cone Nebula is a perfect example of the pillar-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known for creating new stars,” ESO astronomers said.

“This type of pillar arises when massive, newly formed bright blue stars give off stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that blow away the material from their vicinity.”

“As this material is pushed away, the gas and dust further away from the young stars gets compressed into dense, dark and tall pillar-like shapes.”

“This process helps create the dark Cone Nebula, pointing away from the brilliant stars in NGC 2264.”

The new image of the Cone Nebula was captured by the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

“In this image, hydrogen gas is represented in blue and sulfur gas in red,” the astronomers said.

“The use of these filters makes the otherwise bright blue stars, that indicate the recent star formation, appear almost golden, contrasting with the dark cone like sparklers.”

“This image is just one example of the many stunning and awe-inspiring observations ESO telescopes have made in the past 60 years,” they added.

“While this one was obtained for outreach purposes, the overwhelming majority of ESO’s telescope time is dedicated to scientific observations that have allowed us to capture the first image of an exoplanet, study the black hole at the centre of our home Galaxy, and find proof that the expansion of our Universe is accelerating.”

“Building on our 60 years of experience in astronomy development, discovery and cooperation, ESO continues to chart new territory for astronomy, technology and international collaboration.”

“With our current facilities and ESO’s upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), we will keep on addressing humanity’s biggest questions about the Universe and enabling unimaginable discoveries.”

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