Diamonds are an astronomer’s best friend, as this image caught by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama desert shows. What the European Southern Observatory’s telescopic sentry has captured is what appears to be something akin to a celestial diamond ring.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this eye-catching shot is some strange singular object hanging in a backdrop of deep space and stars. However, here you can see a meeting of two separate events coalescing to make this rare sight. Planetary nebula Abell 33 has just by chance aligned with super-bright foreground star HD 83535, suggesting a cosmic proposal.
What’s striking about this particular shot is that Abell 33, located some 2,500 light years away, is almost perfectly round. It was formed when an aging star threw off its outer layers to create a beautiful, blue, ultraviolet bubble. This is something that’s uncommon for planetary nebula, since impartial objects often disturb their symmetry.