A new camera on a telescope in the Southern Hemisphere has captured a stunning image of the Cat's Paw Nebula, offering a colorful and detailed view of a star-forming region of the Milky Way.
Released by the European Southern Observatory, the new photo of the Cat's Paw Nebula located about 5,500 light-years from Earth is one of the first shots taken by ArTeMiS — a submillimeter-wavelength camera added to APEX, the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment in Chile. ESO officials also produced a video fly-through of the incredible Cat's Paw Nebula view using the new camera observations.
The new instrument is expected to help scientists create more detailed wide-field maps of the sky in a shorter amount of time, ESO officials said in an image description. But the installation of the new hardware was no cakewalk. [Gallery: Strange Nebula Shapes, What Do You See?]
"The commissioning team that installed ArTeMiS had to battle against extreme weather conditions to complete the task," ESO officials wrote. "Very heavy snow on the Chajnantor Plateau had almost buried the APEX control building."
The staff had to use an improvised road in order to transport and install the instrument in its proper location.
The research team also battled the weather when it came time to observe using ArTeMiS. The light observed by the camera is absorbed by water vapor in Earth's atmosphere, according to ESO officials. Because of this, the scientists had to wait for dry weather before testing out the instrument.
Since its initial commissioning, researchers have used ArTeMiS for scientific projects including one that produced the new photo of the Cat's Paw Nebula. "This new ArTeMiS image is significantly better than earlier APEX images of the same region," according to ESO officials.
The Cat's Paw Nebula plays host to tens of thousands of new stars and houses about 200,000 suns' worth of material needed for star formation.
A study released earlier this year suggests that the nebula might be going through a stellar "baby boom." Stars in the Cat's Paw Nebula are forming at a more rapid pace than the Orion Nebula, making it one of the most productive star forming regions in the galaxy. The new research found that the nebula could be going through a period of rapid star formation.
"It might resemble a 'mini-starburst,' similar to a scaled-down version of the spectacular bursts sometimes seen in other galaxies," the study's lead author Sarah Willis of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Iowa State University said in a statement released in June.
The European Southern Observatory is an intergovernmental astronomy organization supported by 15 different countries in Europe and South America.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight. Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.