Death is an inevitable fact of life, for those bound to mother Earth, and for the objects that lurk outside its confines. However, in some small way, there’s something intrinsically beautiful about it, especially when death begets life. Out in the cosmos, a star’s sphere of influence doesn’t cease to exist when it dies. Instead, it will go on to birth new stars, seed space with heavy elements—like those that compose the human body, and rocky planets like Earth—and create intricate nebulae.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA

It’s common for these nebulae to take on many forms, sometimes resembling living, breathing creatures. In this image,  the pareidolic figure is clear: a bright and beautiful butterfly. Called Roberts 22 (otherwise known as AFGL 4104, or AFGL for short), it can be found approximately 3,300 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation.

By designation, AFGL is a planetary nebula, which means it was spawned by a medium-mass star, like the Sun. From NASA:

See a larger image here.


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