The European Southern Observatory’s 8.2-metre Very Large Telescope captured the most detailed view yet of NGC 2899, a colourful twin-lobed planetary nebular that resembles a vast butterfly surrounded by glowing clouds of high-temperature gas. Reaching temperatures of some 10,000 degrees, the gas is heated by torrents of radiation from the nebula’s parent star, with hot hydrogen creating a reddish halo surrounding the blue of oxygen gas. Located in the southern constellation Vela, the nebula features two central stars. One, near the end of its life, blew off its outer layers but the other star interferes with the outward flow of gas, creating the unusual two-lobed shape. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of planetary nebulae feature such bipolar shapes. This spectacular image was captured by one of the VLT telescopes using the FORS instrument.
The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has been used to detect the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in normal galaxies in the early universe. The new observations allow astronomers to start to see how the first galaxies were built up and how they cleared the cosmic fog during the era of reionisation.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying red giant star in the V Hydrae binary system. The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the Moon.
The spectacular aftermath of a 360 million year old cosmic collision is revealed in great detail in new images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Among the debris is a rare and mysterious young dwarf galaxy. This galaxy is providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to learn more about similar galaxies that are expected to be common in the early universe, but are normally too faint and distant to be observed by current telescopes.