It is a celestial object we have featured before on Skymania. A distant star wreck that resembles a cosmic eye staring down at us from the depths of space.
Today European astronomers released a stunning new photo they have taken of the Helix Nebula.
Its bright blue pupil and the white of the eye are fringed by flesh-coloured eyelids – but this eye is so big that it light takes two and a half years to cross from one side to the other.
Nicknamed the Eye of God, this cosmic wonder is actually a shell of gas and dust that has been blown off by a faint central star. Our own solar system will meet a similar fate five billion years in the future.
It lies around 700 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius, and can be dimly seen in small backyard telescopes by amateur astronomers who call it the Helix nebula. It covers an area of sky around a quarter the size of the full moon.
The photo was taken with a giant telescope at the European Southern Observatory, high on a mountaintop at La Silla in Chile. It is so detailed that a close-up reveals distant galaxies within the central eyeball. Previous powerful images of the nebula have included ones taken by the Hubble telescope and an infrared view from the Spitzer space telescope.
• What do you think? Skymania welcomes your comments and views. You can support this site by visiting Skymania’s stores in the USA, the UK, Canada and France. They are powered by Amazon so you can buy with confidence.
Latest posts by Paul Sutherland (see all)
- 17 totally awesome facts about an eclipse of the Sun - 08/21/2017
- World gathers to watch total eclipse of the Sun cross the USA - 08/20/2017
- When can you see the Perseid meteor shower in 2017? - 08/13/2017