The Very Large Telescope captures the beautiful remnants of a dying star

vlt planetary nebula abell 24 red and long dead
This red-hued cloud of gas is named Abell 24, and is located in the constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog). The image was taken with the VLT’s FORS (FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument. ESO

This beautiful cosmic object is a planetary nebula named Abell 24, captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

Located in the constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog), this is the remnants of a long-dead star. A planetary nebula is not related to planets — the confusing name comes from a time when nebulae were observed using primitive telescopes which weren’t strong enough to differentiate between nebulae and planets. In fact, a planetary nebula is a swirl of dust and gas which is illuminated by the core of a dead star.

The lifecycle of a star involves a bright, active phase, in which the star glows with light and heat due to the fusion of hydrogen into helium within its core. But as thousands of years pass, the star will eventually burn through all of its hydrogen and will eventually run out of fuel. When this happens, the forces of gravity which are pushing into the star from the outside are no longer balanced by the energy being pushed outward from the star’s core. This causes the core of the star to collapse, shrinking down to a hot, dense mass. But at the same time, the cooler outer layers of the star expand, causing the star to grow into a red giant.

The red giant phase is not the end of the story for the star, however. Next, stellar winds pull gas away from the outer layers of the star, creating a shell of gas which spreads out from around the star. Eventually, the gas will be pulled away until only the hot glowing core remains. The core emits large amounts of ultraviolet radiation, which ionizes the surrounding gas. It is this illuminated gas which forms the glow of a planetary nebula like Abell 24.

This image was captured using the FORS (FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument on the Very Large Telescope, located in the Chilean desert. The VLT consists of four telescopes, each of which has a main mirror which is 8.2 meters (about 27 feet) in diameter, plus four auxiliary telescopes which are 1.8 meters (7 feet) diameter each. These eight telescopes work together to form the world’s most advanced optical instrument.

Emerging Tech

Astronomers have spotted a moon forming around a proto-Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted a young planet with a disk of gas and dust around it which is similar to the one from which the moons of Jupiter were born. The planet PDS 70 b is in the process of forming and is located 370 light-years away.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Here are the best shows on Netflix right now (July 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Hubble spots unexpected disc around supermassive black hole

Hubble has discovered something odd: A disc of material around a supermassive black hole which was thought to be starving. The black hole in question lies at the center of the galaxy NGC 3147, 130 million light-years away from Earth.
Emerging Tech

Meet NASA’s climbing robots, able to move through the slipperiest environments

When it comes to exploring far off planets, robots need to be able to tackle all sorts of environmental challenges. NASA has been working on a series of climbing robots to take on different tasks in inhospitable environments.
Emerging Tech

Bouncing robot for low-gravity space missions has a spring in its step

The European Space Agency has created SpaceBok, a robot inspired by the springbok designed for low-gravity dynamic walking. On the moon, SpaceBok could potentially jump as high as two meters into the air.
Emerging Tech

Stallone in Terminator 2? How one deepfake prankster is changing cinema history

Ever wanted to see The Shining with Jim Carrey instead of Jack Nicholson? How about Stallone in Terminator 2: Judgement Day instead of everyone's favorite governator? Thanks to deepfakes, it's now possible -- just ask YouTuber Ctrl Shift…
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods looks to make another splash with fishless fish

Impossible Foods is currently developing fishless fish, in response to the growing demand for plant-based food. The product will include heme, a protein from genetically modified yeast that was also used in the Impossible Burger.
Cars

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Drone lens, laser synth, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Professional poker players no match for A.I. in six-player Texas Hold ’em

Poker AI Pluribus destroyed professional players in Texas Hold 'em. The bot won an average of $5 per hand with winnings of $1,000 per hour, with strategies that were very different to how humans played the game.
Emerging Tech

Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes

Russia has finally launched its powerful X-ray observatory, Spektr-RG, after a delay caused by faulty batteries on board the spacecraft. The launch took place at 5:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 13, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Emerging Tech

See a gargantuan dust storm covering the north pole of Mars

A dust storm around Mars' north pole has been imaged by the Mars Express orbiter. Localized dust storms are common on Mars, but occasionally one expands into a planet-wide event like the one which caused the demise of the Opportunity rover.
Emerging Tech

NASA thinks 3D-printing spacecraft parts in orbit will help Moon to Mars mission

NASA funded the demonstration by a small spacecraft named Archinaut One to manufacture and assemble parts while in space. NASA believes that the technology will change future space exploration, including its Moon to Mars initiative.
Emerging Tech

Flyboard Air soars over Paris during France’s national day celebrations

Franky Zapata, the inventor of the jet-powered Flyboard Air, showed off his machine during France's Bastille Day celebrations on Sunday. The impressive display was even given a nod of approval by French President Emmanuel Macron.