An amazing 268-megapixel image of the Carina Nebula has been released by the European Southern Observatory.

The picture of the star-forming region of the southern sky, which is located 7,500 light-years from Earth, was captured by the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The telescope is a 2.6-metre telescope, and the 268 megapixel image was made without any 'stitching' of smaller images. It is the largest telescope in the world dedicated solely to taking visible light images.

Oddly enough, it was President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, himself who helped to take the image as part of a PR stunt to mark its inauguration.

The ESO said:

This star formation region is one of the most prominent and frequently imaged objects of the southern sky. It has been the subject of many earlier images with ESO telescopes (eso1208, eso1145, eso1031, eso0905). However, the glowing gas cloud is huge and it is difficult for most large telescopes to study more than a tiny part of it at once.

This makes it an ideal target for the VLT Survey Telescope and its big camera, OmegaCAM. The VST delivers very sharp images because of its high quality optics and the excellent site. But, as it was designed for surveys of the sky, it also has a very wide field of view that can take in almost all of the Carina Nebula in a single picture.

A full-quality, zoomable version of the picture can be seen at the ESO's website.