Brilliant stars shine like dusty diamonds in the tail of a cosmic scorpion in a dazzling new image and video captured by a telescope in Chile.
The new photo, taken by astronomers with the European Southern Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert, shows the stars of Messier 7 (M7), a star cluster so bright that it can be seen with the naked eye. The cluster is about 800 light-years away in the tail of the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpion), and is one of the prominent ones in Earth's sky, ESO scientists said. The researchers used the ESO telescope observations to create a stunning video tour of the M7 star cluster, which Space.com set to the song "I Wonder" by the band Super 400.
"An interesting feature in this image is that, although densely populated with stars, the background is not uniform and is noticeably streaked with dust. This is most likely to be just a chance alignment of the cluster and the dust clouds," ESO officials wrote in a photo description. [Amazing Celestial Photos of ESO's Paranal Telescope]
"Although it is tempting to speculate that these dark shreds are the remnants of the cloud from which the cluster formed, the Milky Way will have made nearly one full rotation during the life of this star cluster, with a lot of reorganization of the stars and dust as a result."
The new ESO picture of M7 (also called NGC 6475) was snapped with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Open clusters such as this one show stars that were born at about the same time and location from a gas and dust cloud. M7 itself was born about 200 million years ago, and it's expected that about a tenth of the cluster's star population will ultimately explode and die as supernovas.
The first known observation of M7 was described around 130 AD by astronomer Claudius Ptolemy, who called it a "nebula following the sting of Scorpius."
For more information on the music of Super 400 used by Space.com in the new video, visit: www.super400.com.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace