The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured this stunning image of planetary nebula that, by chance, is aligned with a foreground star, and thus bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetrical, appearing to be almost perfectly circular.
The nebula, known as Abell 33, is approximately 2,500 light-years from Earth. A planetary nebula forms when a star reaches the end of its lifetime and can no longer support itself with fusion reactions in its center. As the star collapses, its outer layers are thrown into space, creating colorful clouds of gas illuminated by heat from the remnant star at the nebula's core.
The remnant of Abell 33's progenitor star, on its way to becoming a white dwarf, can be seen just slightly off-center inside the nebula, visible as a tiny white pearl.
Source: European Southern Observatory