Colourful celestial landscape

The star cluster RCW 38 in all its glory.

Celestial Art
New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope show the star cluster RCW 38 in all its glory. This image was taken during testing of the HAWK-I camera with the GRAAL adaptive optics system. It shows the cluster and its surrounding clouds of brightly glowing gas in exquisite detail, with dark tendrils of dust threading through the bright core of this young gathering of stars.

New observations with ESO‘s Very Large Telescope demonstrate the star cluster RCW 38 in the entirety of its glory. This picture was taken amid testing of the HAWK-I camera with the GRAAL versatile optics system. It demonstrates RCW 38 and its encompassing clouds of brilliantly shining gas in perfect detail, with dark tendrils of residue threading through the splendid center of this young gathering of stars.

This picture demonstrates the star cluster RCW 38, as caught by the HAWK-I infrared imager mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. By looking into infrared wavelengths, HAWK-I can inspect dust-covered star clusters like RCW 38, giving an unparalleled perspective of the stars framing inside. This bunch contains many youthful, hot, huge stars, and lies around 5500 light-years away in the group of stars of Vela.

This chart shows the location of the dramatic star formation region RCW 38 in the constellation of Vela (The Sails). The map shows most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions, and the region of sky shown in this image is indicated. Credit: ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope
This chart shows the location of the dramatic star formation region RCW 38 in the constellation of Vela (The Sails). The map shows most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions, and the region of sky shown in this image is indicated.

The central area of RCW 38 is obvious here as a bright, blue-tinted locale, a zone possessed by various exceptionally youthful stars and protostars that are still in the process of forming. The serious radiation spilling out from these recently conceived stars causes the encompassing gas to shine brightly.

This is in stark contrast to the streams of cooler cosmic dust winding through the region, which glow gently in dark shades of red and orange. The contrast creates this spectacular scene — a piece of celestial artwork.

Past pictures of this area taken in optical wavelengths are strikingly extraordinary — optical pictures seem emptier of stars because of residue and gas hindering our perspective of the cluster. Perceptions in the infrared, in any case, enable us to peer through the residue that clouds the view in the optical and dig into the core of this star cluster.

Digitized Sky Survey image around the stellar cluster RCW 38
This image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). The field of view is approximatelly 2.4 x 2.0 degrees.

HAWK- I am introduced on Unit Telescope 4 (Yepun) of the VLT, and works at close infrared wavelengths. It has numerous logical parts, including acquiring pictures of nearby universes or extensive nebulae and in addition singular stars and exoplanets. GRAAL is a versatile optics module which causes HAWK-I to deliver these staggering pictures. It makes utilization of four laser bars anticipated into the night sky, which go about as artificial reference stars.

This image was captured as part of a series of test observations — a process known as science verification — for HAWK-I and GRAAL. These tests are an integral part of the commissioning of a new instrument on the VLT and include a set of typical scientific observations that verify and demonstrate the capabilities of the new instrument.