Image Credit & Copyright: European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT).
This beautiful structure is a planetary nebula and it’s the result of when a star roughly eight solar masses or less, ends its life. These stars (like our Sun) don’t go out with a bang but instead die relatively quietly and release their stellar material out into the surrounding cosmos. As the sphere of material expands outward, the structure will remain visible for upwards of 100,000 years though this one is relatively young, likely 8,000 years old or so.
This particular object is located 3,500 light years away in the constellation Hydra and goes by the name of the Southern Owl Nebula because of its resemblance to M97 the Owl Nebula in Ursa Major. It’s about 2 light years in diameter which is about 2,000 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit or about half way to Alpha Centauri from the Sun. If you could travel 7 times around the Earth per-second, it would still take you 2 years to cross from one side to the other.
One has to wonder, that, as we see the end of a stars life that was similar to that of our Sun; was there life there? Are we witnessing the extinction of not only a star but of life as well? If so, I wonder if they were the only planet with life that they knew of and one day will a life form view our planetary nebula and wonder the same?
NAME: ESO 378-1, PN K1-22 or the Southern Owl Nebula.
WHAT IS IT?: Planetary Nebula.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Approximately 3,500 light years.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 2 light years in diameter.
APPARENT MAGNUDE: Pretty dim, 12.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Hydra the Water Snake.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 11h 26h 43.95s / DEC -34° 22′ 14.90″.
ESO page for this image: https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1532a/
ESO page for this image with description: https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1532/