I've been doing this a long time, and I've seen it all: galaxies and planets, gas clouds and moons, stars being born and stars dying... but when I saw this picture
, I knew there were yet surprises in the sky.
When I saw this I literally gasped out loud; I had never seen any structure in space like it. And when I read what it was, my amazement did not decrease: it's the dusty wind of a dying star.
The object, called AFGL 3068, is a binary star, two stars in an 800-year orbit around one another. One of them is a red giant, a star near the end of its life. It's blowing off massive amounts of dark dust, which is enveloping the pair and hiding them from view. But the system's spin is spraying the material out like a water sprinkler head, causing this giant and delicate spiral pattern on the sky. And by giant, I mean giant: the entire structure is about 3 trillion
kilometers (about 2 trillion miles) across.Get the higher-res version here.Image credit: ESA/NASA & R. Sahai