Messier 17, aka the Swan or Omega nebula, is a favourite target for amateur astronomers, appearing as an extended cloud-like structure that is impressive in even modest telescopes. But the view is nothing short of spectacular in a shot from the Wide Field Imager on the European Southern Observatory’s 2.2-metre La Silla telescope in Chile. One of the sharpest views ever captured of the entire nebula, M17 is revealed as a vast complex of gas, dust and newborn stars, one of the brightest star-forming regions in the Milky Way. Located in the constellation Sagittarius, M17 is between 5,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth.
Most stars form within clusters and these clusters can be used by astronomers as laboratories to study how stars evolve and die. The cluster captured here by the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory is known as IC 4651, and the stars born within it now display a wide variety of characteristics.
This new image of the rose-coloured star forming region Messier 17 was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is one of the sharpest images showing the entire nebula and not only reveals its full size, but also retains fine detail throughout the cosmic landscape of gas clouds, dust and newborn stars.