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Leaving us starry-eyed: gorgeous image of the Cosmic Bat nebula

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Manuel Scarborough
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A dark figure spreading its wings against a starry backdrop: the “Cosmic Bat” nebula has been captured in beautiful detail by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The Cosmic Bat, formally known as NGC 1788, is two thousand light-years away in a dark corner of the Orion constellation.

The nebula does not give off any light of its own, as it is what is called a “reflection nebula” meaning it is a cloud of dust and gas that it illuminated only by the light of nearby stars.

In the case of the Bat, the illumination comes from a cluster of young stars at its core.

In order to capture this dim nebula, a powerful telescope was required.

The ESO used its Very Large Telescope (VLT), part of the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile, which sits at a high altitude — 2,635 m (8,645 ft) above sea level.

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Manuel Scarborough
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