Very Large Telescope Captures Most Detailed Image Yet of Medusa Nebula
Posted on May 23, 2015
Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured the most detailed image yet of the Medusa Nebula. The Nebula named after the Greek Gorgon is located in the constellation Gemini. It is also known as Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274 and is located about 1,500 light-years away from Earth.
The above image uses data from the VLT's FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS) instrument. A much larger version of the above image can be found here and a zoomable image is located here.
The star at the heart of the Medusa Nebula shed its outer layers into space forming the multi-colored clouds of gas. The colorful gas clouds helped give the nebula its name. The filaments of glowing gas in the nebula are meant to represent the snakes in Medusa's hair.
The gas clouds in the Medusa Nebula will slowly dissipate over the next few thousand years. The ESO says, "This is the last phase in the transformation of stars like the Sun before ending their active lives as white dwarfs. The planetary nebula stage in the life of a star is a tiny fraction of its total life span — just as the time a child takes to blow a soap bubble and see it drift away is a brief instant compared to a full human life span."
Here is a close-up pan video showing the Medusa Nebula from the ESO.