Eerie Skull Nebula shines brightly for Halloween

Eerie Skull Nebula shines brightly for Halloween
Eerie Skull Nebula shines brightly for Halloween
A creepy new image captures the Skull Nebula, which is lit by a triple star system just in time for Halloween.

The Skull Nebula, formerly known as NGC 246, is located approximately 1,600 light years away in the constellation of Cetus or The Whale. Use of Very large telescope In Chile, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) snapped a new photo of the eerie nebula, which strikingly resembles a skull floating through space.

NGC 246 is a Planetennebel that consists of a pair of tightly bound stars orbited by a third outer star. The nebula is the dusty remnant of a star explosion in which a sun-like star expelled its outer layers and left behind a brilliant white dwarf star.

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The Skull Nebula seen here by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope is an eerie sight shaped by a strange triple star system. (Photo credit: European Southern Observatory)

The bright white dwarf is one of two stars that can be seen exactly in the center of NGC 246. However, the white dwarf also has a faint star companion that cannot be seen in the new ESO image. These two stars orbit each other as a binary pair, which in turn is orbited by a third star at a distance of about 1,900 times the space between the earth and the sun.

“Taken together, these three stars establish NGC 246 as the first known planetary nebula with a hierarchy triple star system in its center “after a Statement from ESO.

The new image was captured with the FOcal Reducer and the low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument mounted on Disu – one of the telescopes of the VLT at the Paranal Observatory.

The new view of the Skull Nebula captures the bloodshot clouds of gas and dust that drew from the Star explosion. The hydrogen (red) and oxygen (light blue) gases of the nebula appear to glow, illuminating the face of the skull against the dark background of interstellar space.

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