The known universe expands with each passing day as researchers and scientists further explore the cosmos. Some things that float amongst the stars are nice and homey, say the chile peppers currently growing on the International Space Station. Other things out there are a bit more terrifying, like this “evil eye” galaxy NASA reminded us all about over the weekend.
In a post that’s now gone mega-viral on Instagram, NASA shared a photo of the Helix Nebula, a former galaxy that resides in the constellation Aquarius. An eerie teal shroud of cosmic dust encapsulates a star that appears to be glowing red hot. Together, the nebula looks like something ripped straight out of some cosmic horror story. See the snapshot for yourself below.
“The two-light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf, is an example of a planetary nebula, one of the final stages in the evolution of a Sun-like star. The dust makes this cosmic eye gleam red,” NASA explained in the post.
It added, “The nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects, like our own solar system’s Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the comet-like bodies have otherwise survived the dramatic late stages of the star’s evolution.”
The nebula is still relatively close to where we are on planet Earth as it’s “just” 700 light-years away. It also happens to be one of the brightest nebulae within our general area of the cosmos, and is estimated to be around 10,600 years old.