It is a stunning image of the dying breath of a star – and a glimpse into the future of our own sun.

The European Space Observatory’s Very Large Telescope captured the unique glow from planetary nebula ESO 577-24 as it was deep in its death throes.   

The faint glow  persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms.

At around 1400 light years from Earth, the ghostly glow of ESO 577-24 is only visible through a powerful telescope. 

This stunning planetary nebula was imaged by one of the VLT’s most versatile instruments, FORS2. 

The instrument captured the bright, central star, Abell 36, as well as the surrounding planetary nebula. 

The image shows the shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. 

The red and blue portions of this image correspond to optical emission at red and blue wavelengths, respectively.

An object much closer to home is also visible in this image — an asteroid wandering across the field of view has left a faint track below and to the left of the central star. 

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