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Astronomers scour Milky Way using VISTA

The new infrared image of the Lagoon Nebula. An ESO image

SANTIAGO (BNS): Astronomers are carrying out a survey using ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) to scour the Milky Way’s central regions.

The survey called VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) - one of six VISTA surveys currently in progress - will image the central parts of the Milky Way many times over a period of five years and will detect huge numbers of new variable objects.

A new infrared image has been presented as part of this survey. It shows the stellar nursery called the Lagoon Nebula (also known as Messier 8, see eso0936), which lies about 4000–5000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius.

Infrared observations allow astronomers to peer behind the veil of dust that prevents them from seeing celestial objects in visible light.

VISTA, with its 4.1-metre diameter mirror — the largest survey telescope in the world — is dedicated to surveying large areas of the sky at near-infrared wavelengths deeply and quickly. It is therefore ideally suited to studying star birth.

According to astronomers, hot, young stars, which give off intense ultraviolet light, are responsible for making the nebula glow brightly. Newborn stars have been detected in the nebula that is so young that they are still surrounded by their natal accretion discs.

In the last five years, several short-lived bright streaks called Herbig–Haro objects have been detected in the Lagoon Nebula, so the baby boom is clearly still in progress there, they said.


ESO  VISTA  Milky Way  

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