Astronomers have gazed into the gaping mouth of NGC 2467, also known as the Skull and Crossbones Nebula. The image reveals a cosmic vista populated by young stars and churning clouds of colorful cosmic dust and gas.

The star forming region showcased in this new image release is located roughly 4,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Puppis, which, continuing the piratical theme, translates as the poop deck.

Alongside the constellations Carina (the keel), and Vela (the sails), Puppis forms the larger Argo Navis constellation, named for the ship used by the (sometimes) hero Jason in Greek mythology as he sought the golden fleece.

Despite what its swashbuckling nickname may suggest, NGC 2467 is not a single unified nebula, but rather a series of stellarclusterstraveling through the Milky Way at different speeds.

From the perspective of Earth, these clusters, and the dense regions of dust and gas accompanying them, align to give the appearance of a ghostly skull, or pirate face.

Above: Full view of the Skull and Bones Nebula captured by the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope in 2005

NGC 2467 plays host to vast clouds of dust and hydrogen gas. Over time these materials clump together, eventually forming energetic young stars. An outpouring of radiation and stellar winds from these massive stellar bodies plays a major role in sculpting the eccentric shapes of nearby clouds.

The latest shot of NGC 2467 gives us a detailed view of the gaping mouth of the pirate. Astronomers captured the new image using the Focal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument, which is mounted on Unit 1 of the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory, Chile.

The chaotic scene was captured as part of the ESO's Cosmic Gems Program, which makes use of times that are unsuitable for science imaging to capture beautiful and inspiring views of the southern night sky.

Scroll down to watch an ESO video zooming in on the Skull and Bones Nebula.

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