The 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern University Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has taken a beautiful photograph of the Prawn Nebula. In the photo, we can see massive clouds of gas and bright, young stars floating nearby illuminating those gas clouds. The young stars appear to have a slight blue hue to their light.
The Prawn Nebula is also known as Gum 56 and IC 4628, it is massive at 250 light-years across. Despite its giant size, the nebula emits light mostly at wavelengths that humans can’t see. The nebula is sort of like a giant nursery for new stars, as the gas and dust gets dense enough parts collapse and create the beginnings of a new star.
The clouds of red gas in the image is composed of charged hydrogen. The red light is emitted as the ultraviolet energy is emitted from the young stars and excites the nearby hydrogen gas.
Most of the radiation in this nebula comes from a rare source according to scientists. There are a pair of extremely bright blue giant stars nearby that weren’t captured in this image. Despite the rare stars nearby and young stars being formed in the nebula, it remains relatively unexplored by scientists.