The Carina Nebula imaged by the VLT Survey Telescope

Carina Nebula captured in glowing, psychedelic photo

Dec 6, 2012

The Carina Nebula, a stellar nursery, was captured in beautiful, psychedelic photo by the new VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The photo was taken at the observatory on June 5, 2012 but only released today for the telescope’s official inauguration at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

It’s a magnificently colorful and mind-bending image, and one that would make Carl Sagan proud and awed enough to say something like, Look at the billions and billions of stars being born Carina. (Be sure to magnify the image to catch some of the camera’s fine detail.)

The VST, which scans the sky at visible wavelengths, is the largest, most state-of-the-art telescope of its kind at 2.6-meters, sporting a 268-megapixel OmegaCAM. According to ESO’s website, “the VST is designed to photograph large areas quickly and deeply” instead of studying only a small part of the sky at any given time.

ESO states that VST has a number of capabilities:
In planetary science, the survey telescope aims to discover and study remote Solar System bodies such as trans-Neptunian objects, as well as search for extrasolar planet transits. The Galactic plane will also be extensively studied and will provide astronomers with data crucial to understand the structure and evolution of our Galaxy. Further afield, the VST will explore nearby galaxies, extragalactic and intra-cluster planetary nebulae, and will perform surveys of faint object and micro-lensing events. In the field of cosmology, the VST will target medium-redshift supernovae to help pin down the cosmic distance scale and understand the expansion of the Universe. The VST will also look for cosmic structures at medium-high redshift, active galactic nuclei and quasars to further our understanding of galaxy formation and the Universe’s early history.

Redshift, of course, is an astronomical observation related to the Doppler Effect, first theorized by Georges Lemaître and confirmed by Edwin Hubble, that relative to the Earth, galaxies are moving away from us and each other. In other words, space is expanding— which laid the foundations for the Big Bang theory.

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