The Helix nebula looks like a giant eye floating among the stars

August 5, 2016, 6 a.m.
Helix nebula
Photo: ESO

There are many amazing nebulas known to science, but perhaps one of the most surreal is the Helix Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust shaped like a human eye. Located some 650 light-years away from us, the nebula is the remains of a star at the end of its lifetime. The unmistakeable shape is why it's often referred to as the Eye of God. This image is a color-composite created by an astronomical camera located at the La Silla observatory in Chile.

The European Southern Observatory writes:

The blue-green glow in the centre of the Helix comes from oxygen atoms shining under effects of the intense ultraviolet radiation of the 120,000 degree Celsius central star and the hot gas. Further out from the star and beyond the ring of knots, the red colour from hydrogen and nitrogen is more prominent. A careful look at the central part of this object reveals not only the knots, but also many remote galaxies seen right through the thinly spread glowing gas.This image was created from images through blue, green and red filters and the total exposure times were 12 minutes, 9 minutes and 7 minutes respectively.

Explore more strange, beautiful and ghostly nebulae.