Sunday, June 26, 2011

The fiery depths of space: Astronomers capture dazzling rainbow nebula swirling around supergiant star - 25th June 2011

This is the incredible moment a supergiant star is transformed into a rainbow of dazzling colours as it fires gasses into space.

Red star Betelgeuse was captured by astronomers who used the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Infa-red imaging recorded the star's nebula - clouds of gases - being spewed into outer space in immense flame-like patterns.

The incredible images were released by the European Southen Observatory as the enormous star enters the last stages of its life. It is the first time such detail has been shown around a star's nebula.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star that forms the shoulder of the hunter in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and s also one of the biggest, being almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter - around four-and-a-half times the diameter of the Earth's orbit.

The VLT image shows the star's surrounding nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 37 billion kilometres away from the star's surface - around 400 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Read More