Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

speculoos lagoon nebula off to a strong start
The Lagoon Nebula, as imaged by the new SPECULOOS Southern Observatory. ESO

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has been showing off its new toys, recently sharing first light images from its new telescopes Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Each telescope is powerful on its own, but they really shine when the four are combined together into the Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) instrument.

Now the ESO has released the first image collected by SPECULOOS, and it’s a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, also known as Messier 8 or NGC 6523. SPECULOOS isn’t even designed to study nebulae — it is designed to search for habitable planets — but it’s hard to object to the gorgeous results.

The Lagoon Nebula is vast, stretching over 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall. It is also far away, at 5,000 light-years’ distance from Earth, but because of its huge size it still appears three times larger than the full Moon in the sky. On a clear night, it is even possible to glimpse the nebula with the naked eye.

The nebula is not only visually arresting but is also an busy and productive region of space. The dust and gases that make up the nebula swirl together around large, hot stars which give out ultraviolet radiation. This radiation ionizes nearby gas which is what makes the nebula shine and twist into cloud-like shapes. The radiation also blows gas and dust around, creating regions with greater or lower density. In areas of high density, particles are pulled together by gravity and new stars are born.

This isn’t the first beautiful image we’ve seen of the Lagoon Nebula. Last year, Hubble celebrated its 28th anniversary by viewing the nebula and captured this colorful image:

speculoos lagoon nebula hubble s 28th birthday picture  the
To celebrate its 28th anniversary in space the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took this amazing and colourful image of the Lagoon Nebula. NASA. ESA, STScl

In the Hubble image you can see the star Herschel 36 shining brightly in the center, illuminating the gas around it. The radiation from Herschel 36 forms two distinctive features: interstellar twisters which are half a light-year long. Like twisters here on Earth, these rope-like structures are believed to form into funnel shapes due to differences in temperatures between the hot regions of gas and the colder regions within the gas clouds. Eventually these structures will collapse and create new stars.

Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.