The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Chilean-based telescope captured recently unusually detailed images of the Toby Jug Nebula, located some 1,200 light-years from Earth. (Courtesy: ESO/RTV/CBS)
The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Chilean-based telescope captured recently unusually detailed images of the Toby Jug Nebula, located some 1,200 light-years from Earth.
The ESO released the pictures for the first time on Monday (October 8).
The ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) is known for recording spectacularly detailed astronomical images. Its photographs of the Toby Jug Nebula show, with rare detail, the wispy clouds of gas and dust emanating from a giant red star, loosely forming the shape of a beer jug with a handle.
According to the ESO, the nebula was created by a star that is losing part of its mass, forming a cloud of gas and dust as the material cools.
The nebula is formally known as IC 2220, but was renamed "Toby Jug" by British astronomers Paul Murdin, David Allen and David Malin. According to the scientists, the nebula has a characteristic arcing structure, which is similar to an old English drinking vessel known as a "toby jug".
The images of the Toby Jug nebula were captured by the VLT, the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy. According to the ESO, the VLT is the world's most advanced optical instrument, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes. The VLT became fully operational in 2000.
Meanwhile, the ESO is working on the development of another more advanced instrument, known as the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). It is expected to become operational early in the next decade and will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky," according to the ESO.
The ESO is an intergovernmental astronomy organization in Europe. It is supported by 15 European countries.