February 26, 2024

This is what the Running Chicken Nebula looks like, as a 1.5-billion-pixel image

Vast stellar nursery is located 6,500 light-years from Earth

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has revealed the so-called Running Chicken Nebula, home to young stars in the making, in spectacular detail in this 1.5-billion-pixel image captured by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), hosted at ESO’s Paranal site in Chile.

This image is a large mosaic comprising hundreds of separate frames carefully stitched together.

The individual images were taken through filters that let through light of assorted colours, which were then combined into the final result presented here.

The observations were conducted with the wide-field camera OmegaCAM on the VST, a telescope owned by the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy (INAF) and hosted by ESO at its Paranal site in Chile’s Atacama Desert that is ideally suited for mapping the southern sky in visible light.

The data that went into making this mosaic were taken as part of the VST Photometric Hα Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane and Bulge (VPHAS+), a project aimed at better understanding the life cycle of stars.

Intense radiation

The vast Running Chicken Nebula 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 in shades of pink.

The stellar nursery comprises several regions, all of which are visible in this vast image that spans an area in the sky of about 25 full Moons.

The brightest region within the nebula is called IC 2948, where some people see the chicken’s head and others its rear end. The wispy pastel contours are ethereal plumes of gas and dust. Towards the centre of the image, marked by the bright, vertical, pillar-like, structure, is IC 2944. The brightest twinkle in this particular region is Lambda Centauri, a star visible to the naked eye that is much closer to us than the nebula itself.

There are, however, many young stars within IC 2948 and IC 2944 themselves — and while they might be bright, they are most certainly not merry. As they spit out vast amounts of radiation, they carve up their environment much like, well, a chicken.

Some regions of the nebula, known as Bok globules, can withstand the fierce bombardment from the ultraviolet radiation pervading this region. If you zoom in on the image, you might see them: small, dark, and dense pockets of dust and gas dotted across the nebula.

Other regions pictured here include, to the upper right, Gum 39 and 40, and to the lower right, Gum 41. Aside from nebulae, there are countless orange, white and blue stars, like fireworks in the sky. Overall, in this image, there are more wonders than can be described — zoom in and pan across, and you will have a feast for the eyes.

Featured image: This image, edge to edge, is 270 light-years wide. Image: ESO

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247 delivers trending business and lifestyle news and essential infotainment for, and from the Middle East region, with key focus on the GCC nations: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.
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