ESO releases image of the Cone Nebula to celebrate its 60th anniversary

(ORDO NEWS) — For the past 60 years, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has enabled scientists around the world to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

To celebrate its anniversary, the observatory has released a spectacular new image of the Cone Nebula, taken with the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

On October 5, 1962, five countries signed a convention establishing ESO. Now, six decades later, with the support of 16 nations and strategic partners, ESO is bringing together scientists and engineers from around the world to develop and operate advanced ground-based observatories in Chile that enable astronomical discoveries.

The ESO-published image of the Cone Nebula is part of the ESO 60th Anniversary Campaign in late 2022, both on social media under the hashtag #ESO60years, and through local events in ESO Member States and other countries.

At the center of this new image of the Cone Nebula, we see a pillar seven light-years long. Discovered in the late 18th century by astronomer William Herschel, the nebula is part of the larger star-forming region NGC 2264. In the sky, this horn-shaped nebula can be seen in the constellation Monoceros.

The Cone Nebula is less than 2500 light-years away, relatively close to Earth, and is a well-studied object. The nebula is a perfect example of columnar shapes that develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust.

This type of pillar occurs when newly formed bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that blow material away from their surroundings. As this material is repelled, gas and dust further away from young stars is compressed into dense, dark and tall columnar shapes.

In this spectrograph image, hydrogen gas is shown in blue and sulfur gas is shown in red. Using these filters makes bright blue stars almost golden.

This is just one of many stunning observations made by ESO telescopes over the past 60 years.

While this image was taken for informational purposes, the vast majority of the time, ESO telescopes are engaged in scientific observations that have allowed us to take the first image of an exoplanet, study the black hole at the center of our home galaxy, and find evidence that the expansion of our universe is accelerating.

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