Located in the constellation Scorpius, four magnitude seven stars perfectly align, pointing to the center of the faint emission nebula NGC6357 (aka Southern Crab or Lobster nebula due to its appearance). The nebula complex is approximately 5500 light-years distant.
A new image from ESO’s VISTA telescope captures a celestial landscape of glowing clouds of gas and tendrils of dust surrounding hot young stars. This infrared view reveals the stellar nursery known as NGC 6357 in a surprising new light. It was taken as part of a VISTA survey that is currently scanning the Milky Way in a bid to map our galaxy’s structure and explain how it formed.
A hotbed of newly born stars is swaddled in colorful blankets of glowing gas and cradled in an enormous, cold, dark, hydrogen cloud. As the infant stars evaporate the surrounding cloud, they expose dense pockets of gas that may contain developing stars.
Credit: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M.Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA