Swim in the Lagoon

By Phil Plait | September 29, 2009 9:20 am

I have been behind in my cool-astronomy-posting, and haven’t mentioned the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, an ambitious and totally awesome three-part image series by the European Southern Observatory. The first part was to create a magnificent all-sky view of the heavens; the second was a zoom in on the Milky Way showing a region choked with stars and dust.

The third is of the Lagoon Nebula, a star forming region a quadrillion miles across and 4000 light years in toward the center of the galaxy. And the image? Well, if you want the full-res version, you’d better have some room on your drive: it has 370 million pixels and will eat up a whopping 700 Mb of disk space.

And what does it look like? Heh heh heh. Like this:

gigagalaxy_lagoon

[You know the drill, click to embiggen. Do it! Now!]

Oh. Wow. And that’s low-res! Here’s the monster one if you want it.

The depth and detail are simply and truly jaw-dropping. You can zoom in and see young stars, massive stars, dark clouds, ribbons and sheets of gas sculpted by vast winds of subatomic particles blown off of supergiant stars.

The Lagoon was always a favorite target of mine in the summer months when the center of the Milky Way in Scorpius and Sagittarius would just clear my neighbor’s trees. A nearby streetlight always made observing in that direction a pain, but even from a distance of 40 quadrillion kilometers away the nebulous glow of gas and newly-born stars still shone through. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine back then that I’d be able to zoom in on the Lagoon using a 2.2 meter telescope equipped with a 67 megapixel camera!

There is science in this picture, to be sure. We can study it to look at the shape of the nebula, how it interacts with the stars and other nearby nebulae, and much more. But you know what? At this exact moment, I don’t care.

Because my oh my, the Universe is a beautiful place. And sometimes, for just a little while, that’s enough.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: ESO, Lagoon Nebula

Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1. Lagoon Nebula « My Thoughts | September 30, 2009
  1. dhtroy
  2. Zhatt

    There’s an error in your hi-res link; you have a comma after the ‘www’.

  3. Paul Judd

    Woah! I have to wait to get home to get the image – over 600 megabytes is a rather large download for the office here.

  4. Shhh! This is the “Website of the Month” for October’s CAS meeting! Don’t tell nobody!
    ;^)

  5. The monster link is broken, i.e. Copy+Paste FAIL! (there’s a comma between www and eso, and it, of course, should be a dot)

  6. Webcrafter

    Just as well that the link is broken, I think it’s not a good idea to link directly to a 700MB image. Think of the poor servers, think of the poor administrator who gets the bandwidth bill! Too bad I couldn’t find a .jpg version of the image, the size of that would probably be 70MB at most even at highest quality settings…

  7. Paul Judd

    scibuff:
    The monster link has been fixed by Phil. Still gonna wait till I get home though.

  8. phasespace

    Sorry Phil, but I’m not impressed. At HiRISE we routinely take images that have a few billion pixels in them. 67 megapixels? I laugh at your puny camera! We’ve got a gigapixel camera! ;)

  9. mike burkhart

    This is amazing. I think we are looking at the solar systems past our solar system formed form a nebula like this billons of years ago and we may find planets forming there as well as stars . p.s. My favort things to look at are the orion nebula and the pleiades .advice to Phill get a fliter thats blocks streetlights astronomy catalogs sell them I have one it makes observations in the city easey

  10. John Phillips, FCD
  11. John Phillips, FCD

    My direct link for a 64.5MB tiff version is awaiting moderation so get it this way:

    Click on Phil’s ‘The Lagoon Nebula’ link. Click Images in the menu at the top of the page and then click ‘this link’ under the small image on the right of the page. The image is m8.tiff.

  12. 8. phasespace Says:

    Sorry Phil, but I’m not impressed. At HiRISE we routinely take images that have a few billion pixels in them. 67 megapixels? I laugh at your puny camera! We’ve got a gigapixel camera!

    It’s not how many pixels your camera has, it’s how you use them…..

    [sounds vaguely familiar…?]

    J/P=?

  13. I made a 1920×1200 Lagoon Nebula wallpaper for anyone who wants it!

    How: I started with the 64.5 MB TIFF linked by John Phillips, and shrunk it in Photoshop CS4 to 1900 pixels wide with “bicubic sharper” resampling. The vertical dimension was 1286 pixels so I chopped the 86 from the top. Then I saved it as a JPEG at quality 8, which is probably good enough for desktop use (I wanted it under 1 MB).

    I’m not using it for my wallpaper yet though because I’m still enjoying that Cassini composite of Saturn too much :D

  14. Oops, it looks like GigaGalaxy Zoom offers wallpapers in various sizes, as long as you don’t mind the logos they add.

  15. Ben

    5 more minutes to go… This must be the biggest image I ever downloaded.

    Thanks, Phil!

  16. I'd rather be fishin'

    If this and the rings of Saturn photos don’t keep the ‘this is an astronomy blog, so keep it on topic’ critics silent in wonder and awe, nothing will. What a beautiful image.

  17. @I’d rather be fishin’
    Ok. Here goes… I thought this was supposed to be an astronomy blog. Pretty pictures are not astronomy. Just because the said artwork contains astronomical objects does not make it astronomy. More equations, diagrams and the occasional earth-shattering boom are required to make this astronomy.

    Awesome image.
    Slightly OT, last night was an almost perfect night for the ol’ Galileoscope. Our moon and Jupiter were in very close proximity. Could almost see 5 moons in the same view and Jupiter is looking gorgeous at the moment.

  18. I'd rather be fishin'

    “You can zoom in and see young stars, massive stars, dark clouds, ribbons and sheets of gas sculpted by vast winds of subatomic particles blown off of supergiant stars. ”

    So there!

    “There is science in this picture, to be sure. We can study it to look at the shape of the nebula, how it interacts with the stars and other nearby nebulae, and much more. But you know what? At this exact moment, I don’t care.”

    And neither do I.

  19. The Lagoon was always one of my favorites as a kid. Magnificent site in a 6″ reflector built from scratch. Here in lovely Pasadena-in-the-Smog there’s too much light pollution to get the same effect.

    I heart spacecraft.

  20. I realise I’m a day or so late, but I downloaded the image and used a tilecutter to turn it into a Deep Zoom image. You can explore it interactively at full resolution here: http://www.notdot.net/lagoon/

  21. @ Nick Johnson:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »