Very Large Telescope shows wonders of a beautiful ghost star

5 Aug 2015

It’s hard not to be impressed by some of the wonders of the universe, but a new recent image taken by the brilliantly-named Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile offers an unprecedented look at a ghost star.

Despite its name, there is certainly nothing spooky about a ghost star, otherwise known as a planetary nebula and the final remnants of a dying star.

Dubbed the Southern Own Nebula (ESO 378-1) by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) astronomers, this particular ghost star has a diameter of almost four light-years and is located in the constellation Hydra.

Covered as part of the ESO’s Cosmic Gems series, ESO 378-1 shows all the characteristics of planetary nebula in that it has only been in existence for approximately 10,000 years, rather than the billions of years that stars like our sun live for.

Ghost star ESO

The Southern Owl Nebula captured using the Very Large Telescope. Image via ESO

These cosmic beauties are formed from the gases of a dying star, which gives the distinctive look during its initial creation, but fades away over time.

Once this has faded away, the central core of the planetary nebula will continue to burn for another billion years, where it will eventually become a tiny, but powerful, white dwarf cooling over billions of years.

This same process will occur with our own sun when, in several billion years time, it will have spent all of its fuel and shrunk to become a white dwarf.

Very Large Telescope image via ESO/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic