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A stunning space butterfly captured by a telescope



Stunning space butterfly captured by the ESO telescope

Credit: ESO

Looking like a butterfly with its symmetrical structure, beautiful colors and intricate patterns, this striking gas bubble – known as NGC 2899 – seems to be floating in the sky in this new image from ESO̵

7;s very large telescope (VLT). This object has never been depicted in such striking detail, even the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula shone above the background stars.


NGC 2899 extensive gases extend up to a maximum of two light-years from its center, shining brightly in front of the stars of the Milky Way until the gas reaches temperatures above ten thousand degrees. The high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation from the nebula’s parent star, which causes the hydrogen gas in the nebula to glow in a reddish halo around the oxygen gas, in a blue color.

This object, located between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years in the southern constellation Vela (Sails), has two central stars that are thought to give it an almost symmetrical appearance. After one star reached the end of its life and discarded its outer layers, the other star now interfered with the gas flow, forming the biplane shape observed here. Only about 10-20% of planetary nebulae show this type of bipolar shape.

Astronomers were able to capture this very detailed image of NGC 2899 using the FORS instrument installed on UT1 (Antu), one of the four 8.2-meter telescopes that make up ESO’s VLT in Chile. Standing for a low-dispersion FOcal reducer and spectrograph, this high-resolution instrument was one of the first to be installed on ESO’s VLT and is behind many beautiful images and discoveries from ESO. FORS contributed to observations of light from a gravitational wave source, studied the first known interstellar asteroid, and was used to study the physics behind the formation of complex planetary nebulae.

This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program, an information initiative to create images of interesting, intriguing or visually appealing objects using ESO telescopes for educational and social purposes. The program uses telescope time, which cannot be used for scientific observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes and made available to astronomers through the ESO Scientific Archive.


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Quote: A stunning space butterfly captured by a telescope (2020, July 30), retrieved on July 31, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-stunning-space-butterfly-captured-telescope.html

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