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1.5-Billion-Pixel Image Of The Running Chicken Nebula Is Astounding

Truly the gift for the person who has everything.

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Edited by Francesca Benson
author

Francesca Benson

Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Francesca Benson is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer with a MSci in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham.

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The Running Chicken Nebula comprises several clouds, all of which we can see in this vast image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), hosted at ESO’s Paranal site. This 1.5-billion pixel image spans an area in the sky of about 25 full Moons. The clouds shown in wispy pink plumes are full of gas and dust, illuminated by the young and hot stars within them.

A portion of the Running Chicken Nebula

Image Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: CASU

Christmas and the many other winter (in the northern hemisphere) holidays are a time of celebration – and also a time of telescopes trying to one-up each other with the most stunning pictures they can produce. JWST has delivered a breathtaking view of Uranus, and now it’s the turn of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), delivering a mosaic of the Running Chicken Nebula.

Part of the European Southern Observatory, the VLT has snapped hundreds of frames that were carefully stitched in this incredible mosaic. The Running Chicken Nebula is as big as 25 full moons in the sky, so it would not fit into a single exposure. The result is this 1.5-billion-pixel image that details the many regions of the nebula.

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Brightest among them is IC 2948, which is the major structure in the nebula, seen by some as the head (tilt your own to see it) or the tail of the running chicken. In the center, there is IC 2944, which is an almost pillar-like vertical structure. Next to it, there’s something unrelated to the nebula: the star Lambda Centauri, visible to the naked eye and much closer to us than the nebula, which is 6,500 light-years away.

An annotated version of the image as well as a superimpose picture of the moon to show its size in the sky
The nebula and a major stellar nursery, with the moon for scale.
Image Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: CASU


There are also structures separated from the main nebula such as Gum 39 and 40, and, to the lower right, Gum 41. If you zoom in on the full image, you can see baby stars just born from the nebula, as well as Bok globules, dark regions of dense gas and dust.

The whole picture is too beautiful for words and an absolute gift to all lovers of space. 


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spaceSpace and PhysicsspaceAstronomy
  • tag
  • nebula,

  • very large telescope,

  • Astronomy,

  • european southern observatory,

  • Running chicken nebula

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