Astronomers Capture Incredible Picture Of ‘Space Butterfly’
Somewhere out there, many thousands of light years away, there’s a beautiful ‘space butterfly’ made up of clouds of blue, purple and red.
Astronomers have captured a stunning image of the ‘butterfly’, which is actually a planetary nebula, in detail that has never been seen before.
The space butterfly consists of a giant cloud of gas that forms around an ancient star that hasn’t yet exploded. It’s believed there are two central stars within the ‘butterfly’. The clouds of gas extend to a maximum of around two light-years from the centre, and it’s these clouds extending from the two stars that produce the butterfly shape.
The incredible new imagery was captured by the European Space Observatory’s aptly titled Very Large Telescope, which is stationed in the Chilean mountains and is said to be the ‘world’s most advanced optical instrument.’
Along with the accompanying interferometer, the Very Large Telescope can illuminate details 25 times finer than normal individual telescopes. Even without the interferometer, it can see things 4 billion times clear than the human eye.
This particular space butterfly is known as NGC (New General Catalogue) 2899 and is believed to be around 3,000 and 6,500 light years away from Earth in the Vela constellation, which seen be seen from the Southern Hemisphere.
According to the European Space Observatory, the space butterfly is caused by ultraviolet radiation that lights up the shells of gas around the star, prompting it to shine brightly. However, this only lasts for a few thousand years before breaking up. Obviously, a few thousand years sounds like a long time to us mere mortals, but that’s actually quite a short life span in terms of astronomy.
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CreditsEuropean Space Observatory
European Space Observatory