Swan Nebula captured by NASA’s flying telescope

The beautiful colours of the Swan Nebula, as seen by NASA's SOFIA telescope.

The distinctive curved neck of the Swan (or Omega) Nebula is actually a relatively recent feature, according to new observations from SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), NASA’s flying telescope housed in a modified Boeing 747SP.

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It reveals gas in blue heated by massive stars near the nebula’s centre, but also shows dust glowing green, warmed not just by older stars but also newborn stars nearby.

These never-before-seen protostars point to a multi-generational back story: with the oldest region at its heart, the northern area formed next and the southern region came most recently.

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Observatory SOFIA

Release date 7 January 2020

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Image credit NASA/SOFIA/De Buizer/Radomski/Lim; NASA/JPL-Caltech; ESA/Herschel