A huge new image of the Lagoon Nebula, covering an area of the sky eight times larger than the full moon, has been released by the European Southern Observatory.
Located four to five thousand light-years away in the direction of Sagittarius, the nebula is a cloud of dust and gas about 100 light-years across. Bright, star-forming clusters can be seen scattered throughout the reddish nebula, which acquires its color from small particles that scatter white light.
The full 668-megabyte TIFF is available, and an online zoomable version, too.
The image is the third in a “trilogy” plotted and executed by the ESO for the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The previous GigaGalazy Zoom images showcased the best the unaided human eye and an amateur telescope could do. The latest photo steps up to the pro level by using the 67-million-pixel Wide Field Imager attached to the 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in the Atacama desert of Chile.