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A breathtaking photo of a constellation 4,000 light-years from Earth is the most detailed ever of that region

This image, taken by OmegaCAM on the VLT Survey Telescope at Paranal Observatory, shows a section of the Ara OB1 stellar association. In the centre of the image is the young open cluster NGC 6193, and to the right is the emission nebula NGC 6188, illuminated by the ionising radiation emitted by the brightest nearby stars. 
A cool 24 quadrillion miles out.
By Zach Wener-Fligner
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Roughly 4,000 light-years (about 24 quadrillion miles) away from Earth in a particularly happening region of the universe full of star clusters, nebulae, and a star-forming molecular cloud, there is a constellation known as Ara.

Now, hot off the presses of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in the Chilean Andes, we have a new image of Ara that is the most detailed ever captured. The image is massive, with the uncompressed version weighing in at 324 megapixels and a hulking 808 megabytes. If you’re feeling bold, you can download it (and other, smaller versions) here.

Here’s the image, in uncropped glory:

At the image’s center is a cluster of very bright stars known as NGC 6193. Each of these stars is around 100,000 times brighter than our sun (as measured by the stars’ luminosity, or the power emitted in the form of photons). That brightness obscures the area around the cluster, making the stars look like headlights shining through fog. Here’s a closeup:


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