VLT Survey Telescope images the Seagull Nebula

The VST's image of this famous nebula reveals the bird-like cosmic cloud in a new light.

Seagulls are well-known for their huge wingspans, but what about one stretching 100 lightyears across?

That’s the width of the Seagull Nebula (Sharpless 2-296), so-called due to its resemblance to a bird in flight.

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It lies between Canis Major and Monoceros 3,700 lightyears away in one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms.

The nebula’s seagull-like shape is actually made of three separate clouds of dust and gas that are illuminated by the radiation from young stars born within.

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This image was captured by the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.