Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageIncredibly beautiful images of the Medusa nebula

By Stephen Morgan     May 22, 2015 in Science
The Medusa nebula takes its name from a figure in Greek mythology, who would turn you to stone if you looked at her face. However, the most you can fear from gazing at this cosmological phenomenon, is to be struck speechless by its beauty.
The nebula was called Medusa because poisonous snakes hung from her grotesque head, instead of hair. Those who named the nebula thought – though I'm not sure why – that the glimmering filaments of the interstellar gas cloud resembled those hideous serpents upon whom a passer-by should never gaze.
But the images captured by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile gives one an entirely different experience – captivating it might also be, but the effect is stunning, rather than deadly.
Well, deadly in a way, in as much as the star at the center of this cloud is in the process of dying. Like our own Sun will do eventually, it gradually jettisons its outer layers out into space, which then forms the multicolored, gossamer-like clouds. Because those emissions are irregular, the result is these fascinating shapes in the sky, which then curve around into a crescent.
Formations like this are called planetary nebula, which is a misnomer, because it is not made up of planets. It took this name back in the 18th century, when astronomers at the time mistook the images for giant planets.
Eventually, the sun at the center of the process will itself deliquesce into a cloud of this kind and become a white dwarf. says;
"The dead star itself .. is illuminating its own funeral shroud: Strong ultraviolet radiation is stripping atoms off the billowing clouds, producing ionised gas"
"The glow of different gases are captured in a variety of colours: The reds are hydrogen, for example, while the fainter green is oxygen." explains that;
"Harsh ultraviolet radiation from the very hot star at the core of the nebula causes atoms in the outward-moving gas to lose their electrons, leaving behind ionised gas. The characteristic colours of this glowing gas can be used to identify objects.... By applying appropriate filters, astronomers can isolate the radiation from the glowing gas and make the dim nebulae appear more pronounced against a darker background."
The nebula is situated 1,500 light-years away in the constellation of Gemini. Even though it measures about four light-years across, it is extremely difficult to see, because it doesn't exude light as brightly as surrounding stellar objects.
Best previous image of Medusa before new ESO photos
Best previous image of Medusa before new ESO photos
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) site says that,
"The nebula is also referred to as Abell 21 (more formally PN A66 21), after the American astronomer George O. Abell, who discovered this object in 1955. For some time scientists debated whether the cloud could be the remnant of a supernova explosion. In the 1970s, however, researchers were able to measure the movement and other properties of the material in the cloud and clearly identify it as a planetary nebula."
More about medusa, Images, Photos, nebula, Beautiful
Latest News
Top News