Witch's Broom Nebula Pictures Reveal Stunning Brilliance of Space

The Witch's Broom nebula, also known as the Pencil Nebula, was captured by a Chilean telescope, revealing stunning pictures of the constant changes taking place in space. The clear photos of the nebula- remnants of a supernova explosion over 11,000 years ago- have become immensely popular since their release Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The Witch's Broom nebula was observed by astronomers from the European Southern Observatory, who used the La Silla Observatory's equipment. The location, deep in Chile's high Atacama Desert, allowed them to view the intense blue, pink, red, and purple hues clearly.

"These glowing filaments were created by the violent death of a star that took place about 11,000 years ago," ESO officials stated along with the pictures' release. "The brightest part resembles a pencil; hence the name, but the whole structure looks rather more like a traditional witch's broom."

The Witch's Broom nebula has been classified as NGC 2736 and is about 800 light-years from Earth. Though Earth sees the galactic remains as colors, they're really remains of a huge explosion- one that helped propel gas and dust into space. The nebula seen is only part of a bigger constellation.

"It is the brightest part of a vast expanding shell of gas in the constellation Vela (The Sails) that is known as the Vela supernova remnant," Space.com reported. "The remnant was originally hurtling through space at millions of miles an hour and much brighter, but it has cooled and slowed over time, ESO officials said."

The entire nebula is about .75 light-years across- that's about 4.5 trillion miles wide. The colors indicate the same way flames do on Earth: bright blues are the hottest regions of ionized oxygen, and the deep reds are warm hydrogen, according to the astronomers.

The Pencil Nebula was first spotted in 1835 by astronomer John Herschel, which is why it's first name was "Herschel's Ray."

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