We may think our Sun is impressive, but it pales in significance when compared to the red supergiant Antares which burns more than 600 light years away.
In this stunning image Antares glows orange and is surrounded by reflected bright yellow gas and dust. It is considered a bruiser in the Milky Way, with a diameter 800 times that of our Sun and a luminosity which is 10,000 times brighter.
Antarres is the crowning star in the Rho Ophiuchus Nebulae Complex, considered by many astro-photographers to be the most beautiful area of the night sky.
The complex features stunning nebulae, which are huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust. A yellow reflection nebula surrounds Antares and the red areas of this image are created by hydrogen gas in red nebulae emitting light.
To the left of the picture a sensational blue reflection nebula surrounds the Rho Ophiuchi triple star and is a result of interstellar dust that is illuminated by nearby stars.
It also contains dark nebulae in strange murky shapes such as the ‘pipe nebula,’ which appears upside down to the left of Antares, and the ‘Dark River’ that flows down towards the bottom of the picture. Made up of hydrogen gas and thick dust clouds they hide background stars from view.
While the ‘Dark River’ is 500 light years away, the globular star cluster M4 (seen shining white above Antarres) is a whopping 7,000 light years from Earth. One of the largest such clusters in our galaxy,it is made up of more than 10,000 stars.
The colourful skyscape is a mosaic of eight panels spanning nearly 10 degrees across the sky. It is found in the constellation of Scorpius, which can be seen in the southern sky close to the horizon if you live in the Northern hemisphere.
It was captured over three months by Australian astro-photographer Jason Jennings on four different days. He had an exposure time of 16 hours with two hours per panel and used a £5,400 astronomy camera built for wide field space imaging.
— By Claire Bates