The spectacular planetary nebula NGC 7009, or the Saturn Nebula, emerges from the darkness like a series of oddly-shaped bubbles, lit up in glorious pinks and blues. This colorful image was captured by the powerful MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), as part of a study which mapped the dust inside a planetary nebula for the first time. The map — which reveals a wealth of intricate structures in the dust, including shells, a halo and a curious wave-like feature — will help astronomers understand how planetary nebulae develop their strange shapes and symmetries.
The Saturn Nebula is located approximately 5 000 light years away in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Bearer). Its name derives from its odd shape, which resembles everyone’s favorite ringed planet.
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