ESO’s VISTA Telescope Spots Bright Nebula in Serpens

by johnsmith

Astronomers using ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at Paranal Observatory have captured an amazing new photo of Sh2-54, a bright nebula in the constellation of Serpens.

This image of Sh2-54 was taken in infrared light using ESO’s VISTA telescope. Image credit: ESO / VVVX.

Sh2-54 resides approximately 6,200 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens.

“The ‘Sh’ refers to the U.S. astronomer Stewart Sharpless, who catalogued more than 300 nebulae in the 1950s,” ESO astronomers said in a statement.

Also known as LBN 018.45+01.87, IRAS 18150-1142, LBN 72 and Mol 46, Sh2-54 belongs to an extended nebulosity that includes also the Eagle Nebula and the Omega Nebula.

“Nebulae are vast clouds of gas and dust from which stars are born,” the astronomers explained.

“Telescopes have allowed astronomers to identify and analyse these rather faint objects in exquisite detail.”

“As the technology used to explore the Universe progresses, so too does our understanding of these stellar nurseries.”

“One of these advances is the ability to look beyond the light that can be detected by our eyes, such as infrared light.”

“Just as the snake, the namesake of this nebula, evolved the ability to sense infrared light to better understand its environment, so too have we developed infrared instruments to learn more about the Universe.”

“Whilst visible light is easily absorbed by clouds of dust in nebulae, infrared light can pass through the thick layers of dust almost unimpeded.”

“The image of Sh2-54 therefore reveals a wealth of stars hidden behind the veils of dust.”

“This is particularly useful as it allows scientists to study what happens in stellar nurseries in much greater detail, and thus learn more about how stars form.”

This image was captured in infrared light using the 67-million-pixel camera on ESO’s VISTA telescope.

It was taken as part of the VISTA Variables in the Via Láctea eXtended (VVVX) survey.

This is a multi-year project that has repeatedly observed a large portion of the Milky Way at infrared wavelengths, providing key data to understand stellar evolution.

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