Recent photographs show an interstellar phenomenon flapping its ethereal wings in stunning detail. The spectacular display comes from a symmetrical gas nebula known as NGC 2899.
The image was taken as part of the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) space gem program for education and community service.
Peering into deep space through a very large ESO telescope, astronomers enjoyed the sight of a huge bubble of glowing gas, almost symmetrical in shape, resembling a butterfly, from 3,000 to 6,500 light-years from Earth.
Although the nebula was discovered by British astronomer John Herschel in 1835, no one had seen it at such a high resolution before.
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The wingspan of the butterfly reaches almost 19 trillion kilometers, or two light years. It’s also incredibly hot, as the hydrogen and oxygen that make up its “body” is heated to about 10,000 degrees Celsius (twice as much as the Sun) thanks to two stars in the center that are believed to give it a symmetrical look.
NGC 2899 can only be viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, and only through a powerful telescope known as a very large telescope, conveniently located in Chile.
Its four 8.2-meter telescopes have revealed numerous images of deep space objects, such as the first known interstellar asteroid and light from a gravitational wave source.
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