Space is so massive, new objects–and worlds, for that matter–are discovered with each passing day. In fact, NASA just launched one of its biggest projects ever, the James Webb Space Telescope, in hopes it will help the outfit document the cosmos like never before. Even before the Webb Telescope is working, the European Southern Observatory took a moment to release one of the most jaw-dropping images of space you’ll see this week.
To celebrate the holidays, the German-based ESO released a picture of a nebula researchers call “Orion’s Fireplace.” The name is as picture-perfect as ever as the image in question shows a nebula full of cosmic gas appearing as if it’s been lit on fire. The nebula itself is between 1,300 and 1,600 light-years away and is the most active cloud in our solar system.
“Given the many secrets it can tell, this region of the sky has been scanned many times in the past at different wavelengths, each wavelength range unveiling different, unique features of Orion’s molecular clouds,” the ESO said in a press release announcing the freshly taken picture.
It added, “One example are the infrared observations performed with ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile that make up the peaceful background of this image of the Flame Nebula and its surroundings. Unlike visible light, infrared waves pass through the thick clouds of interstellar dust, allowing astronomers to spot stars and other objects which would otherwise remain hidden.”
The processed image was technically taken a few years ago, but ESO astronomer Thomas Stanke and his team finally got the picture accepted for publication in science journal Astronomy & Astrophysics earlier this month.
“As astronomers like to say, whenever there is a new telescope or instrument around, observe Orion: there will always be something new and interesting to discover!” Stanke said in the press release.