This extraordinary bubble, glowing like the ghost of a star in the haunting darkness of space, may appear supernatural and mysterious, but it is a familiar astronomical object: a planetary nebula, the remnants of a dying star. This is the best view of the little-known object ESO 378-1 yet obtained and was captured by ESO's Very Large Telescope in northern Chile.
A dying star’s final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star’s demise is still quite lengthy by our standards, lasting tens of thousands of years!
There are many mysterious objects in the cosmos that evoke awe and wonder. Tucked away in this stunning planetary nebula known as the Dumbbell nebula (Messier 27) is a dying sun, that created it all. Now a white dwarf, the central star continues to propel cosmic material outward.
We are used to Hubble capturing astonishing images of supernovae and planetary nebulae created by huge explosions of dying stars. In this image this star went out with a whimper, at least that's how NASA put it. None the less it still is an amazing and gorgeous image.
The extraordinary image you are looking at is not an image from the Hubble Telescope or any huge observatory on Earth. This image was taken in a backyard in an ordinary neighborhood in western Michigan by a very talented astrophotographer named Terry Hancock. What is even more impressive is that he used a tiny 3.6" refractor telescope to achieve it. This is the famous Helix Nebula and some have nicknamed it "The Eye Of God".
It's hard to believe the captivating and gorgeous nebula in this image was created by one tiny sun-like star that exploded. Planetary nebulas are kind of like snowflakes, they are extremely intricate and beautiful and no two are exactly alike. Scattered throughout the universe these dazzling cosmic marvels give scientist a glimpse into our own star's distant future.