Just because of its resemblance to the winged insect, the “butterfly” is actually a planetary nebula: a giant cloud of gas that forms around an ancient star that has not yet exploded. He European Space Observatory
(ESO) aptly named Very Large Telescope, parked in the host country of Chile, recently captured a vibrant image of the interstellar object.
It is known as NGC 2899 (NGC stands for New General Catalog, which lists nebulae and other astral bodies like this). It is located between 3,000 and 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Vela, visible in the southern hemisphere.
This planetary nebula does not last long in this universe. Ultraviolet radiation illuminates the gas shells that surround the star and makes them glow brightly, according to ESO, but only a few thousand years before they break. This is a relatively short life in astronomy.
The very large telescope that captured the image is the “most advanced optical instrument in the world” according to ESO
. With the accompanying interferometer, the tool can illuminate 25 times more detail than individual telescopes. And, by itself, the telescope embedded in the Chilean mountains can see things more than 4 billion times looser than the human eye could see.