The Seagull Nebula, on the border between Canis Major and Monoceros some 3,700 light years away, resembles a great bird in flight with a wingspan stretching 100 light years from tip to tip. That description is an example of pareidolia, the human tendency to find familiar patterns in random or ambiguous shapes. In this case, the “seagull” is a vast collection of clouds made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of heavier elements, a stellar nursery providing the raw materials for new generations of stars. This stunning image from the European Southern Observatory’s VLT Survey Telescope shows the Seagull Nebula in remarkable detail, from ionised gas and dark dust lanes in Sharpless 2-296, the “wings” of the seagull, to the compact cloud forming its head where a piercing eye – a 20-solar-mass extremely luminous star – brilliantly shines.
Messier 18 is the small smattering of bright blue stars upper left of centre in this small-scale version of the original mammoth 30,577 x 20,108 pixel ESO image captured by the OmegaCAM camera attached to the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), located at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an ageing star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered an adolescent protostar that is undergoing a rapid-fire succession of growth spurts. Evidence for this fitful youth is seen in a pair of intermittent jets streaming away from the star’s poles. Known as CARMA-7, the protostar is one of dozens of similar objects in the Serpens South star cluster, which is located approximately 1,400 light-years from Earth.