It’s got it all: stars of every colour studding a riotous background of gas, itself glowing red or reflecting blue, silhouetted in great ostentatious sweeps of dust. Shock waves riddle the gas, compressing it here and there in arc, loops, streamers and filaments.
It’s ridiculous, and spectacular.
The full-size image is 13,000×9000 pixels huge, and cropped down to show some of the more interesting parts in a 4500×4500 version here. The original was taken earlier this year with the HAWK-1 detector on the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory.
For some context, Plait points out that the bright star in the lower left corner, Eta Carina, nearly went supernova in 1843, but stabilised itself by crapping out two masses of matter — each about the size of our sun. Totally nuts. [Bad Astronomy Blog]