The War and Peace Nebula Is Gorgeous Interstellar Violence

The War and Peace nebula is laying waste across space a mere 8,000 light-years away.


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released a gorgeous new picture of the War and Peace Nebula, or what the cool kids call NGC 6357. It’s located 8,000 lightyears away in the constellation of Scorpius. By using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have been able to look at the detail of the nebula’s outer parts for the very first time.


Astronomers gave it the name “War and Peace” because the western part of the nebula resembled a dove, while the other half looked like a skull.

The new image shows a river of dust streaming across the center that absorbs the light from more distant objects. At the right side of the picture is a small cluster of brilliant blue-white young stars that have formed from the congealing gas. These baby stars are only about a few million years old. The intense ultraviolet radiation from these new stars is hollowing out a cavity in the surrounding gas and dust, sculpting it in strange and beautiful ways.

Skulls. Doves. Fantastic.