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ESO completes trilogy, releases image of Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula. Image credit: ESA

PARIS (BNS): Completing the trilogy of its GigaGalaxy Zoom project, the European Southern Observatory has released the third and final image of the series which provides a breathtaking view of the Lagoon Nebula in the cosmos.

The latest 370-million-pixel image extends across a field of view more than one and a half square degree an area eight times larger than that of the full Moon and has been obtained with the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, ESO said.

The Lagoon Nebula is located 4,000-5,000 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). The nebula is a giant interstellar cloud, 100 light-years across, where stars are forming.

The scattered dark patches seen all over the nebula are huge clouds of gas and dust that are collapsing under their own weight and which would soon give birth to clusters of young, glowing stars.

The Lagoon Nebula hosts a young open stellar cluster known as NGC 6530. This is home for 50 to 100 stars and twinkles in the lower left portion of the nebula. Observations suggest that the cluster is slightly in front of the nebula itself, though still enshrouded by dust, as revealed by reddening of the starlight, an effect that occurs when small dust particles scatter light.

This gorgeous starscape is the last in the series of three huge images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project launched by ESO as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The project allows stargazers to explore and experience the Universe as seen with unaided eye from the darkest and best viewing locations in the world.

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