The Dark Energy Camera (DECam), a 570-megapixel U.S. Department of Energy-fabricated camera mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-m telescope at NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, is one of the most powerful tools in astronomy and astrophysics. To commemorate its first decade of discovery and exploration, astronomers have captured a stunning image of the Lobster Nebula.
This image, taken by the Dark Energy Camera on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-m telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, shows the Lobster Nebula. Image credit: CTIO / NOIRLab / DOE / NSF / AURA / T.A. Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage & NSF’s NOIRLab / J. Miller, Gemini Observatory & NSF’s NOIRLab / M. Zamani & D. de Martin, NSF’s NOIRLab.
The Lobster Nebula is a star-forming region located 8,000 light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Scorpius.
Also known as NGC 6357 or the War and Peace Nebula, it was discovered in June 1837 by the British astronomer John Herschel.
NGC 6357 is actually a ‘cluster of clusters,’ containing at least three clusters of young stars, including massive hot stars which glow a brilliant blue-white in visible light.
At the center of the nebula, which spans about 400 light-years, resides the open star cluster Pismis 24.
Surrounding Pismis 24 is a region brimming with newborn stars, protostars still wrapped in their cocoons of star-forming material, and dense cores of gas and dust that will eventually become new stars.
The twisting braids of dark clouds and complex structures inside the nebula are formed by the tumultuous pressure of interstellar winds, radiation, and powerful magnetic fields.
“One of the most striking things about this image is the beautifully detailed color palette selected to highlight different aspects of the nebula,” the astronomers said.
“This wide-field, high-resolution image showcases the power of DECam and its ability to produce stunning images while helping astronomers study the fundamental properties of the Universe.”
“The image was constructed using some of a new range of very special DECam narrowband filters, which isolate very specific wavelengths of light,” they added.
“They make it possible to infer the physics of distant objects, including important details about their inner motions, temperatures, and complex chemistry, which is especially important when examining star-forming regions like the Lobster Nebula.”
“In order to create a colorful image such as this one, the same celestial object is observed multiple times using different filters,” the researchers explained.
“Each observation provides a single-color image, which encompasses a specific range of light waves.”
“Imaging specialists then take these individual images and assign a corresponding color to each of them.”
“The images can then be stacked on top of one another to create a composite that closely approximates what objects might look like if they were far brighter.”