Take a trip out to the constellation of Scorpius get a close-up look at the War and Peace nebula, courtesy of the Very Large Telescope. This is the most detailed visible-light image so far of this spectacular stellar nursery, which is within NGC 6357. The view shows many hot young stars, glowing clouds of gas and weird dust formations sculpted by ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds.
The unusual name of “War and Peace” was given to this nebula not because of the famous novel by Tolstoy, but because in infrared light, the bright, western part of the nebula resembles a dove, while the eastern part looked like a skull. Unfortunately this effect cannot be seen in this visible-light image, but instead we can see dark disks of gas and young stars wrapped in expanding cocoons of dust.
In fact, the whole image is covered with dark trails of cosmic dust, but some of the most fascinating dark features appear at the lower right and on the right hand edge of the picture. Here the radiation from the bright young stars has created huge columns, similar to the famous “pillars of creation” in the Eagle Nebula and other fascinating structures revealed by the awesome power of the VLT.
Lead image caption: The War and Peace Nebula inside NGC 6357, as seen by the Very Large Telescope. Credit: ESO
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.