Planetary nebula IC 1295 from VLT/FORS

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Image credit: ESO

This new image from the VLT shows the planetary nebula IC 1295, which lies in the constellation of Scutum. It has the unusual feature of being surrounded by multiple shells that make it resemble a micro-organism seen under a microscope, with many layers corresponding to the membranes of a cell. These bubbles are made out of gas that used to be the star’s atmosphere. This gas has been expelled by unstable fusion reactions in the star’s core that generated sudden releases of energy, like huge thermonuclear belches. The gas is bathed in strong ultraviolet radiation from the aging star, which makes the gas glow. Different chemical elements glow with different colours and the ghostly green shade that is prominent in IC 1295 comes from ionised oxygen.

Imaging with an 8-metre class telescope is bound to be impressive. The soon-to-be white dwarf is the blue-white object at the very centre of the nebula.

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