Meet the massive nebula Gum 56. Also known by its official designation IC 4628 and by its much cooler nickname – the Prawn Nebula.

Prawn Nebula full

This extraordinary nebula is 250 light-years across and is made up of large amounts of ionised hydrogen. Two incredibly rare O-type stars (not seen in the picture) are responsible for much of this ionisation. How rare? Just 0.00003% of main sequence stars are O-type stars.

Inside this stellar nursery are three clusters of very hot and very young stars. Some of them are just a few million years old. These clusters all grow brightly in ultraviolet light and cause the nebula’s gas clouds to glow.

The Prawn Nebula also acts as an enormous stellar recycling bin. New stars are forming in the dense clouds in the image above. Some of the material inside these clouds are the remains of enormous supernova explosions.

One fact that may surprise you is that the Prawn Nebula isn’t heavily studied. That’s despite the presence of two O-type stars and a stellar light show in infrared and radio wavelengths. Why is it overlooked? Most visual observers skim over it due to how faint it appears. Most of the light emitting from the Prawn Nebula is in wavelengths not visible to the human eye.

Here’s another view of the Prawn Nebula taken by the VLT Survey Telescope.

another Prawn Nebula image

2.2 Meter MPG/ESO telescope and La Silla Observatory facts

– The image at the top of the post was captured using the 2.2 meter MPG/ESO telescope.

2.2 meter mpg eso telescope

– This telescope is located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. La Silla Observatory is located in the Chilean Atacama Desert about 600 km north of Santiago, Chile.

– The Atacama Desert is one of the best places on Earth for astronomy. Its skies are so dark, you can go out on a moonless night and see your shadow cast by just the light of the Milky Way.

The La Silla Observatory is home to ten operating telescopes. These telescopes range in size from 1-meter to 3.6-meters.

The 2.2 Meter MPG/ESO Telescope has captured a wide variety of cosmic images. From spiral galaxies.

spiral galaxy esa

To nebula.

helix nebula

And even the moon.

Moon ESA

You can check out more than 200 stunning images captured by the 2.2 Meter MPG/ESO Telescope here.

Image credits: ESO