Sinister beauty of the star-forming Skull and Cross Bones nebula

An unplanned break in research for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile provided opportunity for a cosmic “happy snap” capturing the sinister beauty of the star-forming region known as the Skull and Cross Bones nebula.

The nebula, more formally classified as GC 2467, attracted its nickname because many observers think its combination of dust, gas and young stars is reminiscent of a grinning skull.

This image came about because conditions arose that for various reasons made the serious and dedicated research conducted at the VLT temporarily impossible. With time on their hands, the staff at the facility used a spectrograph known as FORS2 to track across the southern skies in search of awesome pictures.

The results were well worth it.

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