ESO’s Very Large Telescope Captures a Fleeting Moment in Time

A Fleeting Moment in Time

The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight. This stunning planetary nebula was imaged by one of the VLT’s most versatile instruments, FORS2. The instrument captured the bright, central star, Abell 36, as well as the surrounding planetary nebula. The red and blue portions of this image correspond to optical emission at red and blue wavelengths, respectively. An object much closer to home is also visible in this image — an asteroid wandering across the field of view has left a faint track below and to the left of the central star. And in the far distance behind the nebula a glittering host of background galaxies can be seen. Credit: ESO

The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight.

An evanescent shell of glowing gas spreading into space — the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 — dominates this image. This planetary nebula is the remains of a dead giant star that has thrown off its outer layers, leaving behind a small, intensely hot dwarf star. This diminished remnant will gradually cool and fade, living out its days as the mere ghost of a once-vast red giant star.

Red giants are stars at the end of their lives that have exhausted the hydrogen fuel in their cores and begun to contract under the crushing grip of gravity. As a red giant shrinks, the immense pressure reignites the core of the star, causing it to throw its outer layers into the void as a powerful stellar wind. The dying star’s incandescent core emits ultraviolet radiation intense enough to ionise these ejected layers and cause them to shine. The result is what we see as a planetary nebula — a final, fleeting testament to an ancient star at the end of its life.

This dazzling planetary nebula was discovered as part of the National Geographic Society  — Palomar Observatory Sky Survey in the 1950s, and was recorded in the Abell Catalogue of Planetary Nebulae in 1966. At around 1400 light years from Earth, the ghostly glow of ESO 577-24 is only visible through a powerful telescope. As the dwarf star cools, the nebula will continue to expand into space, slowly fading from view.


This pan video explores the planetary nebula ESO 577-24. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight.

This image of ESO 577-24 was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems Programme, an initiative that produces images of interesting, intriguing, or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for scientific observations; nevertheless, the data collected are made available to astronomers through the ESO Science Archive.

2 Comments on "ESO’s Very Large Telescope Captures a Fleeting Moment in Time"

  1. Recall that 97% of all stars end up as this, first a planetary nebula, then a secondary glow, then belches as the old star fades into white dwarf life that seems to be endless.
    What an amazing prospect to grow old along with our star!! First snowball Earth, then the Great Oxygenation Event, then Extinction Events, and here we still are, just like our white dwarf star!!

  2. Daurrie Kesslyn | January 24, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Reply

    The sphere is diametrically geometric opposition to itself because of its own imperfection, a false statement due to conscious awareness, which augments time-conciliation by polarities, and Hamiltonian conjugate quantities podcast…(nothing is experienced without change.)

    Indeed, the preponderance for the multi-verse is a direct correlation with the neutral polarity of photons (podcast) in equipollence with causality from quantum of action.

    How do Neutral Photons Carry the Sign & Value of Charge?

    Niels Bohr – The Quantum of Action and the Description of Nature
    SEE THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEM

    Nima Arkani Hamed Why is Quantum Gravity So Significant Closer to Truth
    The Looped Light of the Triple-Slit Real Experiment as a Confirmation for
    the Extra Dimensions of Quantum Spacetime and the Reality of Dark Energy

    Spin-Mediated Consciousness: Theory, Experimental

    Studies, Further Development & Related Topics

    The Trascension Hypothesis – John Smart
    The Cruise 2018/19 Show — CHANEL -*Low volume
    Vangelis – Beautiful Planet Earth [HD]

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