ESO’s VLT snaps breathtaking space butterfly image

Shane McGlaun - Jul 31, 2020, 7:47 am CDT
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ESO’s VLT snaps breathtaking space butterfly image

The ESO has shared a new image taken by the Very Large Telescope of an object known as NGC 2899. ESO says that this is the first time the object has been imaged in such detail showing the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula glowing in front of a host of background stars. While NGC 2899 doesn’t seem that large in images, the giant swath of gases extends a maximum of two light-years from its center.

The glowing gases reportedly reach temperatures near 10,000-degrees. The temperatures in the nebula are so high due to high levels of radiation from the nebulous parent star causing hydrogen gas to glow with a reddish halo around the oxygen gas that’s blue. NGC 2899 is a vast distance away from Earth located between 3000 and 6500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Vela.

It has two central stars, which are believed to give it’s nearly symmetrical appearance. One of the stars reach the end of its life and cast its outer layers out, and the other star is interfering with the flow of gas-forming the two-lobed shape seen in the image. Researchers say that only between 10 and 20% of planetary nebulae have this sort of bipolar shape.

Astronomers captured the image using the FORS instrument installed on UT1, which is one of the 48.2-meter telescopes that make up the VLT. That particular instrument has shared multiple beautiful images that have been shared by the ESO.

The image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program. That program is meant to produce images of interesting, intriguing, and visually attractive objects using the ESO telescopes for entertainment and public outreach. The butterfly-like image here is beautiful.


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