ESO’s VLT captures beautiful butterfly-shaped planetary nebula

Hyperaxion Jul 31, 2020

It is the first high-quality image of NGC 2899, located in the constellation of Vela, between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away from Earth.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT), in Chile, captured an unprecedented image of the planetary nebula NGC 2899, which looks like a butterfly. With bright colors, it is the first time that the object – located between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away from Earth – is observed in high quality.

ESO's VLT captures beautiful butterfly-shaped planetary nebula
(Credit: Very Large Telescope (VLT) / ESO).

NGC 2899 is located in the constellation of Vela and has two central stars, which would be responsible for its almost symmetrical shape. According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), after one of its stars died and ejected its outer layers, the other star started to interfere with the flow of gas, forming the two lobes that resemble a butterfly. Only between 10% and 20% of planetary nebulae have this shape.

The gas extends up to two light-years from the center of NGC 2899, shining brightly as it reaches temperatures above 10,000 degrees Celsius. The high temperatures are attributed to a large amount of radiation from the nebula’s parent star, which causes the hydrogen gas to glow a reddish color and the oxygen gas to glow blue.

The incredible image was created under the ESO Cosmic Gems program, an initiative aimed at producing images of space objects using ESO telescopes, for educational and publicity purposes.

Related topics:

Nebula Planetary nebula

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