January 23, 2019
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European Southern Observatory captures image of swirly spiral galaxy

 Handout image provided by the European Southern Observatory showing the spiral galaxy NGC 3981 captured by the instrument FORS2 mounted on the Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile, Sept. 12, 2018. EPA-EFE/HANDOUT/ESO

Handout image provided by the European Southern Observatory showing the spiral galaxy NGC 3981 captured by the instrument FORS2 mounted on the Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile, Sept. 12, 2018. EPA-EFE/HANDOUT/ESO

Berlin, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- The European Southern Observatory on Wednesday released a remarkable high-quality image of a faraway spiral galaxy located in the Crater constellation.

The image was taken in May by the focal reducer and low dispersion spectrograph 2, an instrument mounted on ESO's Very Large Telescope in the middle of Chile's ultra-dry Atacama Desert.

"This wonderful image shows the resplendent spiral galaxy NGC 3981 suspended in the inky blackness of space," ESO said in a statement. "The sensitive gaze of FORS2 revealed NGC 3981’s spiral arms, strewn with vast streams of dust and star-forming regions, and a prominent disc of hot young stars."

Thanks to the image, astronomers are able to observe the galaxy's bright center, which contains a supermassive black hole.

NGC 3981 lies a distant 65 million light years from Earth and forms part of the larger Crater Cloud – named after the Latin term for "cup" – itself a component of the Virgo Supercluster.

FORS2 was also able to capture a "rogue" asteroid streaking across the sky.

The image was taken as part of ESO's Cosmic Gems program, which aims to produce interesting images for educational purposes.

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