Fleeting moment in time

Fleeting moment in time

We managed to capture an amazing planetary nebula using the FORS2 instrument on the Very Large Telescope. You can see the bright central star in Abell 36 and the surrounding planetary nebula. Closer to us is an asteroid, which left a faint trace below and to the left of the central star. A glittering galactic array is visible in the background.

The faint and ephemeral glow of the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for a short time span of 10,000 years. In astronomy, this is just a moment. The Very Large Telescope was able to capture this shell of bright, ionized gas - the last exhalation of a dying star, whose burning remains are viewed at the base of the image. With expansion, the gaseous envelope of the planetary nebula tarnishes and gradually disappears from the view.

Planetary nebula - the remains of a dead giant star, which has thrown out the outer layers and left a hot dwarf. Red dwarfs - the stars at the last stage of life, which exhausted the fuel in the nuclei and began to shrink under crushing gravity.

When the red giant shrinks, the strong pressure re-activates the stellar core, forcing it to shed the outer layers into space in the form of a powerful stellar wind. The core emits sufficiently intense ultraviolet rays to ionize the ejected layers and make them shine. As a result, a planetary nebula appears before us.

A specific planetary nebula was discovered in 1966. It is 1400 light-years distant from us. When the dwarf star cools, the nebula will continue to expand until it slowly disappears from view.

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