Telescope captures image of dying star

April 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM
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MUNICH, Germany, April 10 (UPI) -- European astronomers have released an image of a star 3,300 light-years from Earth seen putting on a show of color and light as it dies.

The image, taken by the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory's facility in Chile, shows a glowing green cloud of gas called a planetary nebula, a part of the end of the life cycle of all stars the size of the sun or larger, the astronomers said.

"What you're looking at is an old star that has blown off some of its atmosphere into space, and is now surrounded by a big bubble of glowing gas," ESO spokesman Richard Hook told RIA Novosti.

"The sun will do this in a few billion years," he said.

Oxygen gives the gas bubble seen in the image its green color, while the blue-white glow next to the green cloud is the "very hot center of the star, which will slowly cool down and die," Hook explained.

The dying star was first observed in the late 19th century, with ESO releasing the new image because "it's an interesting and unusually good picture of an object that hasn't been studied much," Hook said.

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