The nebula is is officially called NGC 2899.

By Andrea Romano
August 03, 2020
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ESO

Did you know that there are butterflies in space?

Well, not literally. The European Space Observatory (ESO) has the ability to capture some of the most mesmerizing images in the universe, and the organization’s image of a butterfly-shaped nebula is the latest to captivate people, according to CNN.

Using the organization’s Very Large Telescope (real name) in Chile, the ESO captured a planetary nebula made up of beautiful blue, red, purple, and pink colored clouds of dust and gas in space, CNN reported. The nebula vaguely takes the shape of a butterfly, and the beautiful colors in combination with its shape only make the object more magical.

While it’s not a literal butterfly, seeing the shape of the insect in the clouds is much like seeing objects in clouds on earth. After all, you might see the image of a bunny in those puffy cumulus clouds, but that’s just an instance of a phenomenon called pareidolia (seeing faces and familiar patterns in objects), according to Farmer’s Almanac. Most people have experienced pareidolia, and it comes from our brain’s need to “organize random information into patterns.”

The “space butterfly” is named NGC 2899 by the ESO, and it is located between 3,000 and 6,500 light years away from Earth in the constellation Vela, according to CNN. This constellation is only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. According to The Independent, the nebula’s spread is about two light years away from its center, or about 11.76 trillion miles.

Sadly, planetary nebulas don’t last very long in space. While ultraviolet radiation lights up the particles, projecting beautiful and brilliant colors, it usually dissipates in about 1,000 years after first appearing, according to CNN. 

The image is one of the clearest and most detailed we’ve ever seen (from any space organization), so who knows how many stunning nebulas like this we’ll be able to see in the future.