A matter of perspective

Image: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Horálek (Institute of Physics in Opava).

There’s an almost 3D quality to this image of a portion of the Milky Way, with the illusion that the nebulae are far more distant when in fact they are much closer than the dark dust lanes that meander through the Milky Way. The red nebula is the Sharpless 2-27 (Sh2-27) emission nebula in Scorpius, the Scorpion, which is some 550 light years distant, while the multicoloured clouds below it are the Rho Ophiuchi complex of reflection nebulae about 460 light years away.

This huge, 170-megapixel image was photographed on Cerro Pachón in Chile, home to several observatories (click the image to see an enlarged view). The image has even captured Gegenschein on the right of the picture. Gegenschein is a diffuse glow produced by nearby interplanetary dust left behind by comets scattering sunlight back towards us. Consequently, the photograph successfully captures phenomena on a variety of different scales in the Milky Way Galaxy.