European Southern Observatory releases new image of Orion’s Flame Nebula

The European Southern Observatory has released a new image of Orion’s Flame Nebula. Named NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula is a large star-forming region located in the Orion constellation situated about 1,400 light-years from Earth. The Orion constellations is easily visible high in the night sky. You can spot Orion’s “belt” consisting of three bright blue stars.

The image was taken using the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), located in the Atacama Desert. The team used radio waves to capture the fiery picture.

APEX antenna The APEX antenna on the high altitude site of Llano Chajnantor in Chile. (ESO)

Former ESO astronomer Thomas Stanke and his team used the new SuperCam instrument at APEX to make the observations. “As astronomers like to say, whenever there is a new telescope or instrument around, observe Orion: there will always be something new and interesting to discover!” says Dr Stanke in a release.

The results of his observations are now accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

In addition to the Flame Nebula, the team also observed reflection nebulae Messier 78 and NGC 2071.

A reflection nebula is created when light from a star is scattered by nearby dust clouds. In 2018, Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) captured a colorful image of M78. The team also found a new small, spherical cloud to the north of NGC2071 and named it the ‘Cow Nebula’ globule. Studying nebulae can help astronomers understand how stars form and evolve during its lifetime.

If you look closely at the new image, you may see a peaceful background with tiny stars. This image was made using observations from ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The infrared waves help astronomers spot stars that are hidden when observed using visible light.

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