Stunning image shows ‘ghostly one-winged butterfly’ spotted by astronomers 520 light-years from Earth

A NEW image captured by the International Gemini Observatory reveals a nebula that resembles an ethereal one-winged butterfly.

The nebula in focus, which is 520 light-years away from Earth, is known as Chamaeleon Infrared, due to its bright glow when viewed in infrared light.

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A beautiful image of the Chamaeleon Infrared nebula was captured by the International Gemini Observatory.Credit: International Gemini Observatory

The image was captured by the southern edition of the twin Gemini Multi-Object Spectrographs (GMOS), which is located at NSF’s NOIRLab, in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

“GMOS-South is the perfect instrument to make this observation, because of its field of view, which can nicely capture the whole nebula, and because of its ability to capture the emission from the nebula’s ionized gas, said NOIRLab instrument scientist German Gimeno

The nebula’s stunning beauty might take center stage in the image, but hidden behind a dark vertical band in the center is the formation of a baby star.

The young star is relatively cool (when compared with our extremely hot and dense sun) and acts as an engine for powerful stellar winds and streams of gas.

The gas is actually responsible for the reflection of visible and infrared light emitted in the photo.

Located towards the center-right of the image, is a bright red spot that illustrates where some of the fast-moving streams of gas collide with slower-moving gas in the nebula, causing a flash of light.

This bright patch of nebulosity is known as a Herbig-Haro (HH) object and is often associated with newborn stars.

The birth of a star is a complex process and happens when dense clumps in clouds of molecular gas collapse, causing them to spin under their own gravity.

As they spin, material (such as gas, plasma, dust, and particles) is pulled into an accretion disk that will feed the ball of gas until it eventually becomes a star.

The Chamaeleon Infrared Nebula lives within the larger Chamaeleon I dark cloud, which is close to the Chamaeleon II and Chamaeleon III dark clouds.

Together these three dark clouds comprise the Chamaeleon Complex, a large area of stars that make up most of the constellation Chamaeleon in the southern sky.

Diagram shows how a hot gas giant exoplanet effects a surrounding star

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