You might know that the constellation Orion the Hunter – a prominent sight in the sky at this time of year – is the direction to one of our galaxy’s star-forming regions, a vast stellar nursery where new stars are born. The VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile has been surveying this region, and it has obtained some spectacular images, including the one above, released by ESO this week (January 4, 2017). ESO said:
This spectacular new image is one of the largest near-infrared high-resolution mosaics of the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1,350 light-years from Earth. It was taken using and reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds.
The new image from the VISION survey (VIenna Survey In Orion) is a montage of images taken in the near-infrared part of the spectrum by the VISTA survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. It covers the whole of the Orion A molecular cloud, one of the two giant molecular clouds in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Orion A extends for approximately eight degrees to the south of the familiar part of Orion known as the Sword.
ESO said that VISTA is the world’s largest dedicated survey telescope. Its VISION survey has resulted in a catalogue containing almost 800,000 individually identified stars, young stellar objects and distant galaxies. Some more images from this telescope are below.
Bottom line: News images from ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope of Orion A, part of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex, a place in space where new stars are forming.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.