• The Omega Nebula / Eagle Nebula / Sharpless 2-54 print

Omega Nebula / Eagle Nebula / Sharpless 2-54

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This enormous three gigapixel (graphic resolution equivalent to three thousand million pixels) image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope shows two of the sky’s more famous residents sharing the stage with a lesser-known neighbour.

Getting to know your neighbour…

On the right lies the faint, glowing cloud of gas called Sharpless 2-54 around 6000 light years away. This nebula is about 200-250 lightyears across making it rather large, consisting of a tight cluster of young, massive, hot, bright stars which emit a fierce light that makes the gas glow.

Hardly discernible is a feature called a ‘chimney’ which may be 650 lightyears long – massive winds blow as stars are born from their surfaces that, in turn, puts huge pressure on the surrounding gas, and when a weak spot is exposed (probably where the gas is less dense, or near the edge of the cloud ) the winds can force a passage through. It’s not clear exactly how these develop, or why they tend to be so straight but the distances involved are simply staggering!

The iconic Eagle Nebula (7,000 lightyears away) is in the centre of the image, discovered by Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745/1746 and is ten thousand times brighter than our Sun. Looking like some bird of prey ready to swoop down on its victim; the impressive ‘pillars’ image was declared one of the best space photographs in 1995. The Eagle Nebula photograph has featured in several sci-fi serials, including Star Trek Voyager, Contact and Babylon 5 and also appears in popular videos games like Mass Effect 2.

A study suggested that the giant columns of hydrogen gas and dust were smashed by a stellar detonation – a supernova – some 6,000 years ago.

The Omega Nebula appears to the left (considered exceptionally juvenile, in astronomical terms) in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is approximately 5,000 lightyears away and it is about 20 lightyears across.

It is also referred to as Messier 17 (M17), in respect to Charles Messier who developed a catalogue of stars in 1764. The palette of colour shades are created by different gases (mostly hydrogen, but also oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur) that are glowing under the ferocious ultraviolet light radiated by the searing young stars.

Active star birth started a few million years ago and continues today. The brightly glowing gas revealed in this picture is just a blister erupting from the side of a much larger shadowy cloud of molecular gas.

Distances in space; here’s a thought..

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is heading out of our Solar System at a whopping 62,000 km per hour, but even at that speed, it would take it 77,000 years just to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. It would take over a billion years to cross the Milky Way galaxy.

That’s an amazing fact in terms of distance but how about this for a fact of time..

…the Apollo astronauts’ footprints on the moon will probably remain undisturbed for at least 100 million years! Now that’s some footprint!

Pigment inks on 271gsm satin paper, professionally hand-bonded onto a 5mm cast acrylic panel. Currently available in four sizes:

  • 72″ (w) × 27.4″ (h)
  • 60″ (w) × 22.8″ (h)
  • 48″ (w) × 18.3″ (h)
  • 36″ (w) × 13.7″ (h)

Each acrylic print comes ready to hang.

FREE delivery.

Credit: ESO.