A cosmic chameleon reveals its true colors in stunning infrared image

A new infrared image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) reveals the true colors of a cosmic chameleon, a vast stellar nursery located about 522 light-years from Earth.

A new photo from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) captures the bright Chamaeleon Cloud, IC 2631, located in a vast star-forming region called the Chamaeleon Complex approximately 522 light-years from Earth. (Image credit: ESO/Meingast et al.)

The image, taken using ESO's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), shows the Chamaeleon Cloud, formally known as IC 2631. This nebula is classified as a reflection nebula, meaning it is made of dust clouds that reflect light emitted from nearby stars.

The nebula at the center of ESO's new image is primarily illuminated by a star called HD 97300, which is one of the youngest, most massive and brightest stars in its cosmic neighborhood. This star can be seen in the center-right of the field, surrounded by purple interstellar clouds. The bright areas of the photo represent interstellar gas and dust energized by young stars still in the process of forming.

"The cloud you see here is packed full of star-making material: Gas and dust," ESO officials wrote in a statement. "At optical wavelengths, this region contains dark patches where dust completely blocks light from background sources. But this image was captured in infrared light, which can pass through dust almost unimpeded, allowing scientists to peer into the core of this cloud."

The new image provides a glimpse into the early stages of star formation, and it helps astronomers to better understand how these cosmic nurseries work. The Chamaeleon Cloud is a particularly active star-forming region, and it is likely to produce many more stars in the future.

The image of IC 2631 is a stunning reminder of the beauty and wonder of the universe, and it provides a valuable window into the process of star formation.

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