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.
This image shows a lonely galaxy known as Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte, or WLM for short. Although considered part of our Local Group of dozens of galaxies, WLM stands alone at the group’s outer edges as one of its most remote members. In fact, WLM is so small and secluded that it may never have interacted with any other galaxy in the history of the universe.
In this huge image of part of the southern constellation of Norma, wisps of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. The vast nebula where these giants were born, known as RCW 106, is captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the irregular dwarf galaxy IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. This is not just a matter of appearances; the galaxy’s cleanliness is vital to our understanding of the universe around us.