The Orion Nebula is such an active and brilliant hub of star formation that it can be seen with the naked eye from Earth, despite the fact that it lies 1,350 light years distant. Stretching a full 24 light years across, the nebula is nestled in the middle of Orion’s “sword.” Its relative proximity and astounding radiance have distinguished it as one of the most intensely studied astronomical objects in the sky.
Now, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has captured the “the deepest and most comprehensive view” of this iconic nebula yet, according to a statement released Tuesday morning.
With the help of the High Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager (HAWK-I) infrared instrument mounted on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESO researchers led by Holger Drass have produced an unprecedented glimpse of the nebula’s glowing heart. The results are published in the latest edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and can be visually summarized by this gorgeous highlight reel of snapshots.
ESO also compiled several videos based on the images captured by VLT, like this dizzying “zoom in” of the nebula from a wide-field shot.