About 1,350 light-years from Earth, just south of the Orion constellation’s ‘sword’ is a bright stellar nursery called Orion A, churning out baby stars like a factory assembly line. Scientists have just acquired the highest resolution photo of this molecular cloud to date — and this incredibly vivid snap should offer more insight into how stars are formed.

The new photo was created by combining a montage of images from the VISTA survey telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile. The single photos are amazing on their own, but together, they depict a highly active and energetic spectacle.

Orion A
The Orion A molecular cloud from VISTA
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With nebular “dust swirling about and high amounts of hydrogen and helium, the Orion Cloud Complex offers the perfect environment for stars and planets to form. The complex is largely composed of infrared wavelengths because of the heat-intensive processes involved in stellar formation. Infrared isn’t visible to the human eye, but VISTA is able to use highly sensitive detectors to gather high quality images for scientists.

Orion A VISTA image
Highlights from VISTA image of Orion A

VISTA has identified nearly 800,000 stars, planets, and galaxies in this region alone, making it the most in-depth survey scientists have ever had access to. EOS is describing these images as a treasure chest of discoveries and are excited to further study the phases of young stars.

Photos via ESO/VISION survey