This surprising gas bubble, known as NGC 2899 , appears to float and flutter across the sky in this new image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).
This object has never before been photographed in such striking detail, even with the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula shimmering against the background stars.
Astronomers were able to capture this highly detailed image of NGC 2899 using the FORS instrument installed at UT1 (Antu), one of the four 8.2-meter telescopes that make up ESO’s VLT in Chile.
NGC 2899’s vast swaths of gas extend up to two light-years from its center, glowing brightly in front of the stars of the Milky Way as the gas reaches temperatures of more than 10,000 ° C.
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 blue.
This object, located between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails), has two central stars, which are believed to give it an almost symmetrical appearance. After one star reached the end of its life and shed its outer layers, the other star now interferes with the flow of gas, creating the two-lobed shape that we can behold. Only about 10-20% of planetary nebulae show this type of bipolar shape .
This image was created under the ESO Cosmic Gems program , an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually appealing objects using ESO telescopes, for educational and public outreach purposes. The program uses telescope time that cannot be used for scientific observations.