Tucked into a dark corner of the Orion constellation, nebula NGC 1788 quietly haunts the night sky, hidden from the naked eye.
A new image from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope brings this enigmatic nebula, nicknamed the Cosmic Bat, into focus. ESO says it's the most detailed portrait of the nebula ever taken.
You might have to squint and use your imagination to see the flying bat in NGC 1788, but it's a beautiful view from any angle.
Small and dim, the Cosmic Bat is a reflection nebula with dusty clouds lit up by young stars nestled into its core. ESO also observed the nebula in 2010, saying the stars in the region have an average age of only a million years.
The bat is located about 2,000 light-years away. "Even though this ghostly nebula in Orion appears to be isolated from other cosmic objects, astronomers believe that it was shaped by powerful stellar winds from the massive stars beyond it," says the ESO.
The Cosmic Bat image is part of ESO's Cosmic Gems program, which involves snapping images of fascinating celestial objects for public outreach and education. Cosmic Gems also brought us the stunning . The Cosmic Bat is another fine jewel to add to the collection.