In the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, in the constellation of Puppis, a half dozen vast “bubbles” of hydrogen gas, heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from nearby O-type stars, provide spectacular backdrops for stellar nurseries where new stars are being born. This glowing cloud, known as SH 2-305, is an emission nebula, or HII region, illuminated by at least two O-type stars and probably several others. Such stars live fast and die young, shining a million times brighter than the Sun with up to around 90 times the mass. This image was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Cosmic Gems programme, an initiative to gather engaging imagery when science observations are not possible.
At a ceremony held today in Germany, the European Southern Observatory and the ACe Consortium signed the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy for key components of the 39-metre aperture European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The 85-metre-diameter, 5000 tonne dome and telescope structure will take telescope engineering into new territory.