A chrysalis-shaped space nebula discovered in 1835 has become a butterfly that floats and flutters across the sky more than 3,000 light-years from Earth.
In 1835, the English astronomer John Herschel discovered a planetary nebula located in the southern constellation Vela, which was called NGC 2899.
A planetary nebula is an emission nebula that has been ejected by a red giant star in the last moments of its life. I don’t know
Originally it was appreciated that NGC 2899 had a curved, chrysalis-like shape, somewhat unusual for a planetary nebula, which is normally rotationally symmetric in one or more axes.
Now, the world’s most advanced astronomical observatory for visible light, ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), has obtained for the first time a precise image of that nebula and discovered that the chrysalis has become a butterfly.
The image uncovers a cosmic butterfly, with a symmetrical structure, beautiful colors and intricate patterns, that seems to float and flutter across the sky. Even the faint outer edges of the planetary nebula are distinguished by shining on the background stars, as explained in a release.
With two stars
NGC 2899’s vast swaths of gas extend up to a maximum of two light years from its center, glowing brightly in front of the stars in the Milky Way as the gas reaches temperatures above 10,000 degrees.
The high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation coming from the nebula’s parent star, causing the hydrogen gas in the nebula to glow in a reddish halo around the oxygen gas, which glows blue.
The nebula, located between 3,000 and 6,500 light years away, has two central stars, and is believed to be responsible for its almost symmetrical appearance.