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Last Updated : Aug 01, 2020 03:40 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Stunning images of space butterfly captured with Very Large Telescope

The bubble – known as NGC 2899 – appears to float and flutter across the sky with symmetrical structure, beautiful colours, and intricate patterns.

A marvelous picture of a bubble of gas that resembles a butterfly has been taken by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT).

The bubble – known as NGC 2899 – appears to float and flutter across the sky with symmetrical structure, beautiful colours, and intricate patterns. This object has never before been captured in such striking detail, with even the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula glowing over the background stars, said ESO.

The bubble’s vast swathes of gas spans as much as two light years from its centre and can reach temperatures of up to ten thousand degrees. This causes the hydrogen gas in the nebula to glow in a reddish halo around the oxygen gas, in blue. The high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation from the nebula’s parent star, as per ESO.

Close

According to the observatory, the bubble of gas is located between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away, in the Southern constellation of Vela – also known as The Sails. It has two central stars, which are believed to give it its nearly symmetric appearance.

After one star reached the end of its life and cast off its outer layers, the other star now interferes with the flow of gas, forming the two-lobed shape seen in the picture, it said.

Only around 10 to 20 percent of planetary nebulae have this kind of bipolar shape. Planetary nebulae are formed when ancient stars with up to 6 times the mass of our Sun reach the end of their lives, collapse, and blow off expanding shells of gas, rich in heavy elements. Intense ultraviolet radiation energises and lights up these moving shells, causing them to shine brightly for thousands of years until they ultimately disperse slowly through space. This makes it relatively short-lived phenomena on astronomical timescales.

The highly detailed image of NGC 2899 was captured by using the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS) instrument installed on UT1 (Antu), one of the four 8.2-metre telescopes that make up ESO’s VLT in Chile.

FORS is one of the first to be installed on ESO’s VLT and is behind numerous beautiful images and discoveries from ESO, said the observatory.

The image was created under the ESO Cosmic Gems programme, which is an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach.
First Published on Aug 1, 2020 03:40 pm
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