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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eye of God pictured in space

Eye of God:
Nicknamed the Eye of God, the amazing
object is actually a shell of gas and
dust that has been blown off by a faint
central star.
Photo: ESO

The bright blue pupil and the white of the eye are fringed by flesh-coloured eyelids - but this eye is so big that it light takes two and a half years to cross from one side to the other.

The object is actually a shell of gas and dust that has been blown off by a faint central star. Our own solar system will meet a similar fate five billion years in the future.

It lies around 700 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius, and can be dimly seen in small backyard telescopes by amateur astronomers who call it the Helix nebula. It covers an area of sky around a quarter the size of the full moon.

The photo was taken with a giant telescope at the European Southern Observatory, high on a mountaintop at La Silla in Chile. It is so detailed that a close-up reveals distant galaxies within the central eyeball.

Original here

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