Santiago, Chile (BBN)-When a star like our sun runs out of fuel and begins to die, violent stellar winds rip it to shreds, blasting massive quantities of stellar matter into space.
The result is a planetary nebula, a vast bubble of expanding gas that represents a star’s final, beautiful, farewell, reports the Discovery.
As imaged by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope, this particularly exquisite planetary nebula is called ESO 378-1 and very little was known about the object until the powerful telescope located in northern Chile zoomed in.
Also known as the Southern Owl Nebula, this planetary nebula is nearly 4 light-years wide and joins its visual cousin, the Owl Nebula, in the northern constellation of Hydra (The Female Water Snake).
Planetary nebulae are fairly short-lived stellar phenomena. As the star, with a mass less than 8 times that of our sun, starts to die, a huge envelope of gas expands into interstellar space.
The core of the star remains in the center of the planetary nebula, powerful ultraviolet light ionizing the gas, causing it to glow.
When the nebula fades away, a white dwarf star will remain behind, glowing and slowly cooling down for billions of years, long after the nebula is gone.
For more information about how this observation was made, read the ESO news release.