A beautiful picture of an unusual planetary nebula was taken by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The object, technically known as NGC 2899, is located between 3,000 and 6,500 light years away in the constellation Vela (the sails) and was shown in detail for the first time and shows its rare butterfly shape.
The mist appears in this way due to the glowing gas that it is made of. Despite their name, planetary nebulae are not actually related to planets. Instead, it is clouds of dust and gas that shine because they are illuminated by stars. When these objects were first observed with early telescopes, astronomers thought they looked like planets, hence the name. With newer telescopes, however, we were able to depict these objects in much more detail and find that they are actually clouds.
This special mist is at a very high temperature, with the hot gas glowing to achieve the visual effect.
“The huge swathes of gas of the NGC 2899 extend up to a maximum of two light years from its center and shine brightly against the stars of the Milky Way when the gas reaches temperatures of over 10,000 degrees [Celsius]”ESO scientists said in a statement,” The high temperatures are due to the large amount of radiation from the nebula’s mother star, which causes the hydrogen gas in the mist to glow in a reddish halo around the oxygen gas in blue. “
Astronomers believe that the nebula has developed its unusual shape because it has two central stars that push out and illuminate the gas symmetrically. This type of fog is called bipolar, and only about 10% to 20% of the fog is of this type.
The image was taken with the FORS instrument on the VLT, which stands for FOcal Reducer and Low Dispersion Spectrograph and images in the wavelengths of visual and almost ultraviolet light.