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ESO delivers breathtaking 1.5-billion-pixel image of a cosmic chicken

Published Dec 23rd, 2023 9:20PM EST
Running Chicken Nebula
Image: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgment: CASU

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This year has been an amazing one for new observations by the various observatories that we have staring off into the cosmos. Notably, the past few days have delivered some absolutely breathtaking images, too, and the latest is a 1.5-billion-pixel image of the Running Chicken Nebula captured by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) VLT Survey Telescope.

The image is absolutely beautiful, and showcases the many clouds of the nebula, which is located in the constellation Centaurus, roughly 6,500 light-years from Earth. This region of space is especially well known for the intense radiation that its young stars emit, creating various clouds of hydrogen gas that show up in the image in pink.

The Running Chicken Nebula is actually comprised of multiple regions of space, all of which span an area that measures the same size as around 25 of our full moons. The brightest portion of the nebula is called IC 2948.

Depending on who you ask, this portion can act as the head or the rear end for the chicken. Either way, the whole image appears to be a chicken running, which is perhaps fitting for an image taken so close to the holidays, when roasted turkey or chicken are staples at the dining room table.

While IC 2948 is the brightest part of the Running Chicken Nebula, there are many young stars within the area, and they release massive amounts of radiation, carving up the environment around them. There are multiple stars within the nebula, and the intense radiation and gasses that fill these regions are what give it that unique and distinct appearance of a running chicken.

To create such a large and spectacular image, the ESO stitched together hundreds of separate frames, creating this gorgeous mosaic of such a beautiful region of space. You can see the nebula in even more detail in the ESO videos that we’ve embedded above. Other notable images released this month include Webb’s view of the Christmas Tree Cluster and Hubble’s “holiday globe of stars.”

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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