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 distinctive planetary nebula, known as NGC 2899, appears to soar 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 layer of gas into space.
NGC 2899 has never before been caught in such detail, revealing faint outer edges of an expanding gas shell glowing over the background stars.
The blue parts of the ‘butterfly̵
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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, with even the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula glowing over the background stars,” ESO said in a statement.
Despite their name, planetary nebulae – shells of gas and dust pushed out of 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 burst expanding gas shells rich in heavy elements.
Intense UV radiation provides energy and lights up these moving shells, making them shine brightly for thousands of years.
Planetary nebulae eventually spread slowly through space, which means that they are relatively short-lived and rare – there are approx. 1,500 known in the galaxy, estimates the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
NGC 2899, discovered by English astronomer John Herschel in 1835, is located somewhere between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Vela.
NGC 2899’s enormous shards of gas extend up to a maximum of two light years from the center and reach up to 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 10,000 degrees Celsius.
An image of the Omega Nebula, captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) with a dusty, rose-colored center
Such high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation from the nebula’s parent star that causes hydrogen gas in the nebula to glow in a reddish halo around the oxygen gas, in blue.
NGC 2899 has two central stars, which are believed to give it its almost symmetrical appearance.
After one star reaches the end of its life and casts its outer layers, the other star intervenes in the flow of gas, forming the butterfly-like two-lobed shape seen here.
ESO said that only approx. 10 to 20 percent of the planet’s nebulae show this type of bipolar shape.
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 stands behind other stunning images.
In 2013, FORS returned a picture of a unique green-toned unique nebula reminiscent of the Slimer ghost from the 1984 film Ghostbusters.
The glowing green planet nebula IC 1295 around 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 located approx. 3,300 light-years away in the constellation Scutum.
It has also taken a shot in the past Omega nebula about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, with a dusty, rose-colored center.
FORS has been used to study the depth of the physics behind the formation of complex planetary nebulae.
It has also contributed to observations of light from a gravitational wave source and has studied the first known interstellar asteroid.
The asteroid, called ‘Oumuamua’ by its discoverers, is up to 400 m long and highly elongated – probably 10 times as long as it is wide.
THE VERY LARGE TELESCOPE IS A POWERFUL GROUND-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, if head mirrors measure 27 feet (8.2 meters) in diameter.
There are also four auxiliary telescopes with a diameter of 1.8 meters (1.8 meters).
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’, went into routine scientific operations on April 1, 1999.
The telescopes can work together to form a giant ‘interferometer’.
This interferometer allows you to filter images for unnecessary hidden objects, and as a result, astronomers can see details up to 25 times finer than with individual telescopes.
It has been involved in discovering the first image of an extrasolar planet as well as tracking individual stars moving around in the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
It also observed the afterglow of the long-known Gamma Ray Burst,