The Swan soars through the Milky Way in stunning view from La Silla Observatory

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.

M17, the Swan or Omega nebula, as imaged by the 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Image: ESO