ESA reveals stunning image of giant Crescent Nebula shedding its layers

11 Dec 2017

Concept image of space telescope. Image: Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock

Out in the distant universe, an enormous crescent nebula is in the midst of shedding its ‘shell’ to reveal a wondrous image.

Whether it’s snapping a photo of your hometown from space, or capturing the clearest ever image of another star, space produces some spectacular photography.

Now, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton telescope has captured an incredible image of the Crescent Nebula in the constellation of Cygnus about 5,000 light years away.

This young, massive star began its life around 25 times the size of our own sun, but is now shedding ‘shells’ of material to create this stunning image released by ESA.

Crescent nebula

The Crescent Nebula. Image: ESA/XMM-Newton, J Toalá and D Goldman

The shell of material it is shedding in this photo was created as it expanded into a red giant approximately 200,000 years ago.

The enormous gas bubble appeared as more recent fast cosmic winds collided with the material, causing the gases in the bubble to heat up and emit x-rays, seen as blue in the above image.

The green hue in the photo was created by oxygen atoms, where the star’s wind is interacting with the surrounding interstellar medium.

Offering a reason as to why there appears to be different structures in the bubble, ESA said that it is likely due to density differences of the material.

Elsewhere in astronomy this week, we heard some fascinating news from researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the world’s largest radio telescope.

By analysing two massive galaxies, the University of Arizona team discovered that they were oozing with dark matter, and showed that galaxies form a lot quicker than we once thought.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic