ATLANTA (CNN) – Thousands of light years away, there is a “space butterfly” colored with shiny blouse and purple and red clouds. It is an image we have never seen in this detail before.
Named for its resemblance to the winged insect, the “butterfly” is actually a planetary nebula – a giant gas cloud that forms around an ancient star that has not yet erupted. The European Space Observatory (ESO), dubbed the Very Large Telescope, located in the host country of Chile, recently captured a vivid image of the interstellar object.
It is known as NGC 2899 (NGC stands in the New General Catalog, which lists nebulae and other astral bodies like this). It is located somewhere between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Vela, which is visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
This planetary nebula is not long for this universe. Ultraviolet radiation ignites gas shells that surround the star and makes them glow quite brightly, ESO said ̵1; but only for a few thousand years before they explode. This is a relatively short time life in astronomy.
The Very Large Telescope that captured the image is “the most advanced optical instrument in the world,” according to ESO. With the accompanying interferometer, the device can illuminate details 25 times thinner than individual telescopes. And by itself, the telescope immersed in the mountains of Chile can see things more than 4 billion times weaker than the human eye could see.
CNN-Wire ™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner company. All rights reserved.
More stories you might be interested in