Exploring the Lagoon

The wide-field telescope in Chile VST gives us this spectacular new vision of one of the most striking nebulae known, or Messier 8, also known as Lagoon. The image was obtained as part of one of the three surveys of the sky where the VST is currently involved.

The Lagoon Nebula recovery in this very detailed image of the VLT Survey Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile



Comes from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the wide-field telescope result of collaboration between INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte and ESO, this spectacular new image of the Lagoon Nebula, a fascinating subject that is about 5,000 light years from us and that is located towards the constellation of Sagittarius. Also known as Messier 8, the Lagoon nebula is a giant cloud that extends for about 100 light years away, where new stars are formed within the plumes of gas and dust. The high resolution image of the Lagoon produced by the VST is composed of 256 million pixels and an enlargeable version allows us to explore all the hidden details of this fascinating celestial object.

The VST was not deliberately aimed towards the Lagoon nebula, but this is just part of the huge VPHAS + survey which covered a much broader region of the Milky Way. VPHAS + is only one of the three surveys carried out in visible light with the VST. These are supplemented by six infrared survey carried out with the VISTA telescope.

The surveys are addressing important issues in modern astronomy, including the nature of dark energy, the search for bright quasars in the early universe, the analysis of the structure of the Milky Way and the search inside of unusual and hidden items, the detailed study of the nearby Magellanic Clouds and much more. History shows that the survey results have often unexpected surprises and these are critical to the advancement of astronomical research.

In addition to the nine surveys with VISTA and the VST that produce images of the sky, the other two surveys are underway with ESO telescopes. One, the Gaia -ESO survey takes advantage of the VLT (Very Large Telescope) at Paranal to define the properties of more than 100,000 stars in the Milky Way, while the other (PESSTO , see the news Media INAF subject) following some transient objects such as supernovae using the telescope NTT (New Technology telescope) at La Silla.

Some of these surveys began in 2010, others more recently, but all of the data were made public and accessible to astronomers around the world through the ESO archive.

Although they are still in progress, the surveys have already helped many discoveries. To mention a few: the new star clusters of the VVV survey, the best map to date of the central region of the Milky Way, an image of the deep sky in the infrared band, and, very recently, some of the most distant quasars discovered so far (from the survey carried out by VIKING VISTA) .

The ESO public survey will continue for many years and their heritage value to the astronomical community will last for decades.

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