A salmon-pink start to 2012

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The European Southern Observatory gets the new year off to a colourful start with this image of the smoky pink core of the Omega Nebula, 6500 light-years from earth in the constellation Sagittarius.

The image was captured using ESO's Very Large Telescope and shows the rose tinted heart of this stellar nursery with its newest offspring burning a bright bluish-white. The dominant reddish colour is produced by hydrogen gas glowing in the intense ultraviolet light of these hot young stars.

It was taken with the FORS (focal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument on Antu, one of the four unit telescopes of the VLT. Exceptionally steady air during the observations has helped to make this one of the sharpest images ever taken from the ground.

Their animated video zooming in on the Omega Nebula is also worth a look.

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