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The Very Large Telescope’s done it again – Here’s what it found inside a new nebula

There’s no place like space when you want to take stunning pictures of enormous, birthing nebulas. The European Southern Observatory in Chile has used its four telescopes, commonly known together as the Very Large Telescope, to take pictures of RCW 34, where stars are exploding and gas clouds form spectacular shapes, as if celebrating their own birth.

The four smaller telescopes are named Antu (The Sun), Kueyen (The Moon), Melipal (The Southern Cross) and Yepun (Venus) in the local language Mepuche. When used together they are also called the Very Large Telescope, where all of this indicates an observatory that’s inspired to be creative by their daily view of the seemingly infinite deep space.

In this up and coming nebula, one can see how the young stars release hydrogen gas, and also how stars are created around the nebula. In the center of the cluster the gas is less dense, which according to some astronomers mean that RCW 34 was formed in waves, where the very first stars exploded in the center of the nebula, and following this event newer stars formed closer to the perimeters of the cluster.

“The presence of ionized hydrogen is common in star-forming nebulas, and is created from the large amount of collapsing gas.” the astronomers at ESO explains.

The nebula is seen in the southern constellation of Vela, and what you see in the picture is hot hydrogen gas moving from the center towards the outskirts of the cloud. Until these photos were taken, astronomers didn’t believe it was possible to see the nebula core with such a dense hydrogen cloud surrounding it. However, thanks to the ability of the telescopes to capture infrared lightwaves, the inside could suddenly be depicted in great detail. Knowing the nebula from the inside out gives a good insight into its history.

The light from RCW 34 is so faint that it’s necessary for astronomers on Earth to look at its infrared radiation, because most of the visible light dissipates on the way here.

Image: European Southern Observatory