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ESO’s VLT Reveals Final Moments of Dying Star

ESO's VLT
planetary nebula ESO 577-24

The faint, vaporous sparkle radiating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 holds on for just a brief timeframe — around 10,000 years, a flicker of an eye in galactic terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope caught this shell of sparkling ionized gas — the final gasp of the diminishing star whose stewing remains are unmistakable at the core of this picture.

As the vaporous shell of this planetary nebula extends and develops dimmer, it will gradually vanish from sight. This dazzling planetary nebula was imaged by one of the VLT’s most flexible instruments, FORS2. The instrument caught the splendid, central star, Abell 36, just as the encompassing planetary nebula.

The red and blue segments of the above picture relate to optical discharge at red and blue wavelengths, separately. An object nearer to home is likewise obvious in this picture — a space rock meandering over the field of view has left a swoon track underneath and to one side of the central star. Furthermore, in the far separation behind the nebula a sparkling host of background galaxies can be seen.

Credit: ESO

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