An image of a spectacular butterfly-shaped bubble of gas in the Milky Way has been captured by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescope.
The striking planet nebula, known as NGC 2899, appears to float and flutter across the sky in this pristine image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
A planetary nebula is created when a star runs out of fuel to burn and blows its outer gas layers into space.
NGC 2899 has never before been captured in such detail, revealing weak outer edges of an expanding gas shell glowing over the background stars.
Blue parts of the “butterfly”
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This highly detailed image of NGC 2899 planetary nebula was captured using the FORS instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in northern Chile. This object has never before been depicted in such striking detail
“This object has never before been depicted in such striking detail, even the faint outer edges of the planet’s nebula glowing over the background stars,” ESO said in a statement.
Despite their name, planetary nebulae – shells of gas and dust ejected from a dying star – have nothing to do with planets.
They are formed when ancient stars with up to six times the mass of our sun reach the end of their lives, collapse and blow out expanding gas shells, rich in heavy elements.
Intense UV radiation provides energy and illuminates these moving shells and makes them shine brightly for thousands of years.
Planetary nebulae eventually spread slowly through space, meaning they are relatively short-lived and rare – there are about 1,500 known in the galaxy, estimates the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
NGC 2899, discovered by the English astronomer John Herschel in 1835, is somewhere between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Vela.
NGC 2899’s enormous gas chasm extends up to a maximum of two light years from the center and reaches up to 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 10,000 degrees Celsius.
An image of Omega Nebula, captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) with a dusty, pink center
Such high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation from the nebula’s parent star, which causes hydrogen in the nebula to glow in a reddish halo around oxygen gas, in blue.
NGC 2899 has two central stars, which are believed to give it its almost symmetrical appearance.
After a star reaches the end of its life and discards its outer layers, the other star disrupts the flow of gas and forms the butterfly-like two-lobed shape seen here.
ESO said that only about 10 to 20 percent of the planet’s nebulae show this type of bipolar form.
Astronomers were able to capture this image using the FORS (FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph) instrument installed on UT1, one of the four 27-foot telescopes that make up the VLT in Chile.
This high-resolution instrument was one of the first to be installed on the VLT – which started operations in 1998 – and is behind other fantastic images.
In 2013, FORS returned an image of a unique green-toned unique nebula reminiscent of the Slimer ghost from the 1984 film Ghostbusters.
The glowing green planet nebula IC 1295 that surrounds a faint and dying star. It is located about 3300 light-years away in the constellation Scutum (The Shield).
The planetary nebula IC 1295 was revealed around a faint and dying star about 3,300 light-years away in the constellation Scutum.
It has also previously taken a shot at Omega Nebula about 6,500 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius, with a dusty, pink center.
FORS has been used to study the deep physics behind the formation of complex planetary nebulae.
It has also contributed to observations of light from a gravitational wave source and has researched the first known interstellar asteroid.
The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to a quarter of a mile (400 meters) long and very elongated – probably ten times as long as it is wide.
THE VERY LARGE TELESCOPE IS A POWERFUL BASIC-BASED INSTRUMENT IN CHILE
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) built the most powerful telescope ever made in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
It is called the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and is widely regarded as one of the most advanced optical instruments ever made.
It consists of four telescopes, each of which the main mirrors are 27 feet (8.2 meters) in diameter.
There are also four movable six foot (1.8 meter) extra telescopes.
The large telescopes are called Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) built the most powerful telescope ever made in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and called it the Very Large Telescope (VLT).
The first of the unit telescopes, ‘Antu’, launched routine scientific operations on April 1, 1999.
Telescopes can work together to form a giant “interferometer”.
This interferometer allows images to be filtered for all unnecessary hidden objects, and as a result, astronomers can see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.
It has been involved in discovering the first image of an extrasolar planet as well as tracking individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way.
It also observed the afterglow of the long-known Gamma Ray Burst,