Helix nebula comes into better focus
The Helix nebula, as viewed from the VISTA telescope.
January 19th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Helix nebula comes into better focus

Astronomers now have their most detailed view yet of the Helix nebula, one of the closest planetary nebulae to Earth.

The image comes from the VISTA telescope, the world's largest survey telescope, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Using infrared light filters, scientists have colored the image to reflect the spectrum of radiation from the nebula. It's the best image yet of the Helix nebula, said Jeremy Walsh, a scientist at the European Southern Observatory in Germany.

Contrary to its name, a planetary nebula does not include a planet. Rather, it forms like this: As a star ages and gets larger, the gas that surrounds it starts to get blown off into a large, fuzzy ball of gas. The star heats up and lights up the nebula, which refers to the molecular gas, ionized metal and dust around it.

The Helix nebula resides in the constellation Aquarius about 700 light-years away. It's quite large - its main ring is 2 light-years across, although its material spreads out to 4 light-years. The star at its center is evolving to become a white dwarf.

This image shows the nebula in the infrared light spectrum, which is invisible to the eye and more toward heat radiation. Telescopes that capture only visible light have not been able to get such a detailed view of the nebula.

"It’s a great target for the VISTA telescope because it has a big field, it can cover a large part of the area of the sky," Walsh said.

The gas in the nebula is mainly hydrogen, with about 10% helium and 1% other elements, Walsh said.

Unlike in visible-light images of the Helix nebula, this one reveals its cometary knots, which are strands of hydrogen that can be as big as our solar system. These clumps of gas and dust endure despite the high-energy radiation coming from the dying star. Their shape is a little bit like a comet, but they're not comets. One of the mysteries is how these cometary knots originated.

"Were they thrown out by the star as it expanded, or have they formed in the cloud of gas somehow through some instability, like forming clouds in the sky? Perhaps it's an equivalent sort of process," Walsh said. "It still is an active area of research."

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soundoff (563 Responses)
  1. Tristanw Justikas

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    July 4, 2012 at 5:03 am |
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    April 2, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  3. John Stewart

    The eye of the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit by Christ that fills heaven and earth!

    March 18, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  4. John Stewart

    And best of all, Jesus Christ spoke the Universe into orbit for 7000 years ago, actually the third day, See Genesis 1:13

    March 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  5. Gyrion

    God –
    Thank you for the wonderful Helix. Just goes to show another wonderful piece of our universe. Looking forward to the day..

    January 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  6. John

    I'm an atheist........ I swear to god I am!!!

    January 21, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  7. Primewonk

    Gyrion wrote, "God created the heavens and the earth, he created the light and called it day, created the darkness and called it night. He created us humans to be over all the animals of the earth... He is there for us"

    Since your god didn't get around to creating stars until day 4, what exactly was this "light"?

    January 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Igor

      What's with some people and the genesis story? Even if there is an architecturally inclined deity, it's silly to think of it as bound by earth day/night units. And talk about bad luck for Adam, if only he had been allergic to apples.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Gyrion

      Perhaps you should pick up the bible and look in the first book called Genesis... there are two versions of how the beginning was created... And that will give you everything you need to know.

      January 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  8. teremist

    The proof of God is in every atom of every natural thing. There is no limit to the wonders He has made. How awesome is His grace, that He should know and love man.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Igor

      "There is no limit to the wonders He has made. "

      I'll be more convinced when a decapitated head survives on its own. Otherwise, there are many very realistic limits to what's out there, whether its the speed of light, the ability of species on this planet to escape eventual extinctions. I'll acknowledge however, to paraphrase Mr. Einstein that human stupidity appears limitless.

      " How awesome is His grace, that He should know and love man."

      Even ignoring the fact that the Old Testament deity loved man in a way a 6 year old with a hose loves an anthill, that is loved to drown almost everybody, I'd prefer that love was not forced on me. Otherwise god never heard of a proverb about letting go those you love. And if that's the case then its not truly omniscient.

      But hey, whatever makes you happy and keeps you from stabbing people on the subway.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:39 am |
      • Gyrion

        Think beyond the human understanding. Cutting off one's head releases the soul which is life... A body cannot 'flop' around without a soul... The body itself is merly an earthly form... Do you want to see the light?

        January 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Then by all means go ahead and post the citations to the peer-reviewed scientific research that supports your contention.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Igor

      I take it you aren't talking to me? Atoms are nifty though. Perhaps someone should tell teremist about quarks. Personally I'm not that far along the amazement ladder. I'm still working my way through how durable and light this plastic cup is and how taste whatever's inside. Doesn't seem grand enough to bother God about though.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  9. Primewonk

    Alethia wrote, "To all you lovely god-hating atheists out there, what caused or generated the big bang?"

    How can someone hate something that doesn't exist? Do we also hate Zeus? How about Ra? Amma? Bumba? Santa?

    Also, how many upper level college courses in physics, astronomy, mathematics, etc., do you have?

    If you choose to be ignorant about science, should you really be here denigrating it?

    January 20, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Igor

      There is a tendency among the more zealous to speculate about the mindset of those who belive otherwise. I don't know if it stems from one sided fanatical thinking which makes them difficult to comprehend someone able to hold an atheistic world view. Perhaps it's a way of seeing the glass half full when attempting to proselityze. Whatever it is, I have been accused quite a few times of only pretendgi to lack faith in a deity, or equivocate disbelief with hate (which probably explains why merely saying that god likely doesn't exist is interpreted as hating those who do).

      To me, religion, spirituality is a personal matter that, even if completely wrong, should remain as such as long as the view is not pushed onto me. When one does, I push back, not with insults but with questions and reasoning. Those who accuse this behavior as hateful are completely oblivious to their distate stemming from the same kind of behavior they just exhibited.

      Notably, I don't go around Making posts that something disproves god (which would be logically wrong anyways.) At any rate I don't need to constantly reaffirm my worldview which i spent years contemplating from many angles. It will take more then promise of eternal life, love and an eye shaped nebula to change it.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Daniel

      How can one hate something that doesn't exist? Well that's a pretty simple answer. They don't. But there seems to be a large amount of people who use religion as a justification for violence. Who's hating who? I just don't believe in a deity. It doesn't mean I don't value life or kindness. I live by common sense, and don't have to worry about some omniscient being constantly judging me for it. I do right by others because I wish for them to do right by me. Not because I want to go to heaven, but because I want to enjoy the life I have, for however long it lasts. And afterward, who knows? Start over, go somewhere else, or just cease to exist. No matter what, though, I'm going to eventually die, and I'm not about to fear the inevitable, or think that anything I do in this life is going to magically grant me an eternal one.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Gyrion

      Santa? you rate this myth on the same scale as God?

      I beleive in Santa..

      Santa is the person that unconditionally gives to someone else something (does not have to be a physical item or money) without any expectation of anythingin return.

      The world had commercialized the term Santa and Christmas to make more profits...

      I would rather spend time with family than to receive some trinket.

      Love is priceless

      January 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  10. ddb880

    One of my favorite sci-fi books is "The Mote In God's Eye" by Larry Niven. This picture is exactly what he wrote about.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  11. eville

    "I'm the eye in the sky, looking at youuuuuu, I can read your mind...." and whatever band that was. (Asia?) (Toto) Cool sure, relationship to God? If you like, but it looks like an eye, I'm wondering if you traveled 700 AU in another direction it might look like the Satan incarnate himself...or J Lo's booty.
    Coincidence does not equate a creator. I'm a religious type myself, but somehow I don't believe the almighty would be pre- planning nebula to look like an eye... the life in helix nebula are looking back and saying, Hey look, kinda reminds me of an rectal cavity.. Oh save us great creator from the evil spinning rectal cavity galaxy!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • Primewonk

      Alan Parsons Project

      January 20, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  12. jack

    That's amazing!

    January 20, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  13. The R.O.T.P.

    looks like hatred to Me.....

    January 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  14. Piffiest

    700 light years away, aye? Imagine in another 10 years the other eye opens.... duh duh duuuuuunn

    January 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Igor

      Having thought about this possibility, i reserve panic and book burning until the eyes are joined by either both ears or a nose featuring both nostrils. Mouth is optional, but will be welcome for confirmation purposes.

      January 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  15. sonic10158

    awesome images like this is why I love astronomy

    January 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  16. localdelii

    Looks like the class ring I lost

    January 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  17. Chris Hansen

    Is it wrong to believe in a deity AND the big bang? I was raised to have an open mind so i have always believed its really ignorant to close your mind from religious ideas and/or science. Yet here people are arguing and debating over a big bang or proving gods exist. Why can't people believe in both? BTW that eye looks awesome!

    January 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Andrew

      People can believe in both, but only one is substantiated by rather large amounts of emperical evidence. You're free to believe in unicorns, the loch ness monster, bigfoot, whatever you want, but there's a far cry from 'beliving' that, and claiming beliefs are supported by any kind of evidence.

      The big bang is a scientific theory, it has undergone some of the most rigerous scrutiny in cosmology, and didn't really gain much acceptance until the 1960s when the CMB (a prediction of the big bang) was first found in 1965. Even then, however, there were skeptics, and it has taken the next 40+ years after the discovery of the CMB to get it so that the big bang is virtually unanimously accepted among cosmologists as the best supported theory. With COBE's data, WMAP's data, and soon Planck's data, you'd be going against a lot of established science to claim the big bang never happened.

      "God" is no where near as supportable, you can believe it all you like, but there's no reason others should take your belief in a deity seriously. No evidence, no reason to believe.

      January 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Igor

      "Is it wrong to believe in a deity AND the big bang?"

      Well, there is substantial evidence that the Big Bang Happened. Whether you believe there is a god who had something to do with the Big Bang, but there is no evidence associate with it. At this point we have several hypothesis but no real knowledge of what came before. The laws of quantum physics are strange enough to allow for spontaneous appearance or certain particles in our universe.

      "its really ignorant to close your mind from religious ideas and/or science."

      I believe, and this view is consistent with science, atheism, etc., that anything is possible, but not necessarily plausible or likely. This allows me to accept things for when proper evidence is presented, and reject claims for which there is no proper evidence or evidence to the contrary, or which are un provable. I am not immune to holding unsupported views which are usually related to subjective matters anyways, and readily acknowledge them as such. Spirituality, and belief, are just that given the diversity of such views. Certainly it's impossible to be open-minded and believe in all the versions of god or gods out there simultaneously.

      January 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  18. KMarie

    It doesn't mean anything but who can't appreciate this spectacle.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  19. justhuman

    Beautiful Picture

    "He is immanent in everything. There is nothing in which He is not there. Whatever we see, whatever we hear. whatever we smell, whatever we touch, whatever we feel, is all full of that Divinity, that is He. The universe that is visible and can be also mentally visualised is the concrete expression of that self-luminous spirit that is He. He is therefore viSvaM, the Universe itself. Without Him there is nothing that exists. He is the substratum behind everything that is inanimate. He is the soul of everything that is animate. While He is infinitely higher than ourselves, He is also infinitely near to us. He is nearer to us than our hands and feet and mind. He is the soul of our souls. He is the Ultimate Reality behind everything that is tangible either to the senses or the mind. He is the Cause of every effect and so He is the Cause of all Causes. Not only does the Universe spring from Him but ultimately it dissolves in Him. So He is both the effective cause and the material cause.The nearest expression in ‘name’ and ‘form’ for this Immanent Absolute is the Siva-linga which represents the Ultimate when the entire universe has merged into it. He is the One that survives in us from childhood to adulthood and through old age from birth, as the I that we talk of when we refer to ourselves. He dwells in us as the only permanent resident. He is the real, the inner ‘I" . This ‘I’ never changes. If we write out all that might be called ‘mine’, including one’s physical possessions, one’s relatives, one’s own body and limbs, mind, mental opinions, all that can be classified as ‘my...’ and throw out all this, then what remains is "I". This ‘I’ is the self of the upanishads. It is that which we see beyond right and wrong, beyond effect and cause, beyond past and future. He is the soul of our very understanding though we may not understand Him. He is Consciousness itself. He controls our very intellect from within.. He is the inner controller. He is the antar-AtmA of everything. This is the IMMANENCE aspect of God."

    January 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Daniel

      tl;dr "he's real cus this book says so"

      January 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  20. Dunster

    I hope all of you people in here realize that THIS IS NOT WHAT THE SYSTEM ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE. Lol, it's a color representation of the different gases surrounding the blown out remains of a star. Stop saying it's god, or it's beautiful nature; it's a fricken inkjet printer.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Daniel

      color reassignment based on radio-frequency, I think is how they get those awesome effects. and also, as noted from another post, if you were the same exact distance, but viewing from a different angle, it wouldn't look anything like an eye at all. the lack of 3-dimensional perception at that distance makes it effectively a flat 2-D image, optical illusion, like those stupid pictures everyone takes of themselves holding up the leaning tower of Pisa

      January 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  21. Rahsheem

    That is freaking awesome!!!

    January 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  22. Believer

    Go back in time 1000 years and see how hard it would be to believe in all the technology today. Have you ever thought that maybe God IS the ultimate scientist? It says in the bible he created man in his image and we know now through technology that we can create clones today. As smart as we think we are we are still just cave men compared the intelligence of God. Also, why would a so called "fairy tale" stick around for so long and have so many believers if there really wasn't something to it.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Andrew

      Umm, Hinduism has been around for just as long, if not longer. The reason it sticks around is because it gives people comfort to think they know what happens after they die, some people like 'faith', I personally just think it's a silly concept. If there's no evidence to support the god conjecture, why bother beliving?

      January 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
      • Believer

        Why not? You can't see, taste or smell oxygen but it's there.

        January 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
      • SB

        Think harder, Believer. Just because you can't taste it doesn't mean you can't detect it and prove or disprove the existence of the oxygen with other means. While you're thinking about that, you should look up "logical fallacy" to better understand the specific flaw in your reasoning.

        January 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
      • Andrew

        I can weigh oxygen, I can see oxygen's spectrum if I excite it (In fact I've seen oxygen arc lamps with my own eyes, AND seen the spectrum), I can produce oxygen, I can preform any number of robust consistant experiments to prove the existance of oxygen without necessarily needing to "see" and "taste" it. The same cannot be said for god.

        January 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Phil

      Recently, it was suggested that most every star has planets in orbit around them. If so, there are billions of them, just in our galaxy alone. There are billions of galaxies with billions of stars and billions of planets. You do the math.

      Probably a large portion of them can support life. If "god" created us in his image...then why did he separate us from one another by distances of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions and billions of light years? That seems kinda dumb.

      There is, never has been and never will be "god".

      Why has the fairytale lasted so long? Because it's a good story...and because you'll burn in hell if you don't believe.

      I will ask this question once more on here.

      Assume that no one in the world has ever heard of god or religion. It's something that hasn't been invented yet.... Along comes someone claiming that they hear this voice in the sky and that there is this invisible being watching over everyone. This being doesn't like what he sees and will condemn everyone to burn in this place called hell for eternity.

      How do you think that person will be perceived? Let me give you a hint.... That person would be considered bat s_it crazy.

      January 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Daniel

      Go back 65 million years and try to convince a dinosaur that God created it.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Daniel

      Lemme Just tally up this score here... ok got it:
      Believer: 0
      Science: 2
      thanks for playing!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  23. abp

    Science did not create what man seeks to understand. The Supreme did! And SHE has got to be mad at how human beings are being treated on earth.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • clearfog

      Which Supreme? Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, or Florence Ballard?

      January 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
      • Daniel

        Well played, clearfog, well played indeed!

        January 20, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  24. Sagebrush Shorty

    Looks like an out of focus Rolex. God has taste.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  25. gupsphoo

    OMG! This proves God is watching us! LOL

    January 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • clearfog

      God must be a cyclops.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  26. Kuske

    Just imagining what kind of life exists outside our solar system is mind boggling

    January 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  27. sharoom

    Is the posting bugged?

    January 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  28. Joe

    It's so funny how scientists can tell us what this is even though it's 700 light years away, lol. As if they have any freaking clue how it was created, what it's made of, how long it's been there or anything else. Their guess is as good as a 10yr old looking at the clouds and seeing a cheeseburger. Humans are so full of themselves!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • SB

      I can't tell if you're trolling or just very poorly educated. Spectroscopy has been around for quite some time. If your chemistry teacher was worth his or her NaCl then you were shown the emission lines of sodium or some other element, and it was explained to you that the chemical composition of a glowing object can be read in the specific wavelengths of the light it emits.

      As to the process of its formation... I think you missed the fact that you are LOOKING at it happening. It's right there; a low mass star is blowing off its outer shell.

      But this is all quite common knowledge. Even schoolchildren know these things, so I say you're just trolling. Badly.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Andrew

      To elaborate on what "spectroscopy" means, because the people here saying "how could they know anything" clearly don't know anything.

      Light has a "spectrum", you know when you take light and shine it through a prisim you get a rainbow. Yeah, these telescopes do esentially that, they break down the light into the const-tuant wavelengths and get a spectrum of what they're looking at. Now, due to quantum mechanical properties, certain elements absorb different wavelengths of light, such that when you look at a spectrum, you see 'absorption lines' which indicate the presence of different elements. From that, you can see if the nebula has a high concentration of heavy elements or not, which would indicate the presence of an old star.

      But wait, there's more! Planetary nebula also form white dwarfs in the center, so if you find a hot small object that produces light in the center of the nebula which follows a white dwarf spectrum, you can be pretty damn sure that nebula came from the white dwarf.

      Oh, oh, but there's still more, because guess what, we actually have the ability to see planetary nebula at different stages of formation too! We call them "protoplanetary nebula"

      So, lets get this straight, we can see the light to see what the concentration of heavy elements is, thus telling us the nebula would be the byproduct of star formation. We can see the white dwarf, the expected remenant of the nebula. And we can see other planetary nebulas in various stages of formation to confirm our hypothesis about planetary nebula in the first place.

      But hey, "it's 700 lightyears away, so far, physicists and astronomers must know nothing" is so easy to say when you've got no clue about the subject.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      No, YOU are full of yourself. Quit projecting your faults onto everyone else.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Daniel

      Tallying up the score... yep, ok here it is:
      Science: 3
      Joe: 0

      January 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  29. DarwinCharles

    Justhuman has described nothing... That is what you worship?

    January 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • justhuman

      Drawin, I do not expect you to understand it any other way...enjoy the picture 🙂

      January 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  30. justhuman

    WOW! When I saw this picture, for a second I thought of God watching me...

    " How to describe God? Words cannot express Him. The eyes cannot see Him. The ears cannot hear Him. He cannot be indicated as this or that. He cannot be related to something as subject and object. He is taller than the tallest. He is shorter than the shortest. There is nothing greater; nothing smaller. He cannot be predicated as the doer of some action, because the undoing of that action is also His. He cannot be attributed as the possessor of something because He possesses also the opposite of that something. He cannot be thought of by the mind, because He is not the object of any thought-process. He cannot be gender-specified, therefore to call Him as a ‘He’ itself is a failure of words. For all you know ‘He’ can be a ‘She’! So the Upanishads also refer to Him as IT. It is incomprehensible, unfettered, uncontaminated, unattached. It has no before, no after, no middle, no inner, no outer. It cannot be classified by category or by action or by quality or by relation. Because He thus transcends everything and also includes everything, He is called Vishnu which means He who overlaps everything that can be conceived. He is beyond everything. He is beyond time, beyond space, beyond causation. He is the grandest, ever. He is the supreme-most. He is therefore purushottama - which literally means the SUPREME PERSON . But here, ‘person’ does not simply mean a person in the ordinary sense of the word. The supremeness indicates that any personification is itself transcended. It indicates complete transcendence of everything. Our finite expressions can never do justice to the grandeur that is God. He is the Colossus, as it were, spanning everything. This is the TRANSCENDENCE aspect of God" V. Krishnamurthy

    January 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • John Stewart

      "There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one" (I John 5:7). It is God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, that rules the Universe and created it the third day in Genesis 1:13, which is exactly for 7000 years ago, and He will come back and make a new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness for . . . His own worshippers only . . . soo, worship Jesus Christ!

      March 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  31. Future Review

    Anomalies in space such as the Helix nebula make spectacular images, but this isn't a religious sign, nor should anyone confuse it with one! Its akin to seeing the image of Jesus on a burnt piece of toast or a dog's butt. This is a scientific model detailing the life's end of a white dwarf. nothing more. Anyone who sees anything else is hallucinating and needs to say no to drugs!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  32. Bill

    I laugh every time I see NASA's latest peek into the depths of the universe. All this capability and the we are still left with a distant smudgy google-earth quality image of the "moon-landing site"... What a joke. America still drinking the NASA Kool-Aid forty years later.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • clearfog

      Speaking of laughs. Which is funnier? Religious zealots who see god behind every rock or the lunatic fringe who see conspirators under every moon rock. Let me guess, you're both. Right?

      January 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • SB

      And just think: all that time you could simply have learned something about how telescopes work, and then you'd understand why the Hubble (for example) can image a distant galaxy but not a tiny craft parked on the surface of the moon. Here's a hint: it involves the word "resolve".

      January 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Andrew

      LEARN BASIC OPTICS! Resolving even a half-meter on the moon requires telescopes with significantly larger apatures than we have on earth, and making lenses that big I'd imagine would be pretty damn pricey for almost no gain. However, we DO have fairly high resolution images from a new lunar orbiter, but I'd imagine you'd just say 'photoshopped'. You moon landing conspiricy theorists are all the same, you don't bother to do the actual physics to understand the claims you make. "Oh, we can see giant massive objects very far away, but we can't see tiny tiny tiny objects close to us, clearly we're being lied to"

      No, it's just that you've never taken a course in optics.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Daniel

      Hmm, lemme tally up the score here... yep ok, got it:
      Science: 3
      Bill: 0
      Thanks for playing!

      January 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  33. clearfog

    Ever see a naked mole rat? Damn ugly. Is this proof of god's hatred?

    January 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Daniel

      No, it's only proof of the subjective nature of beauty.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  34. Seavista

    Here is the video...dated 1/19/2012 – http://www.eso.org/public/videos/eso1205b/

    January 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  35. Eric

    The article says nothing about god. It clearly states that its hydrogen and helium. Yet when people see the picture and it looks like an eye, they immediately think, "well thats definately god!"
    If i was the man you worshiped id smite you all because of your stupidity.

    morons

    January 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • clearfog

      Maybe god has a sense of humor and keeps them around for amusement.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  36. DarwinCharles

    I wish you people were as into science as you are religious hocus pocus...

    January 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Daniel

      EXPELLIARMUS!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  37. man of science

    Religious people get bent if someone tells them how they should view their gods, but they feel perfectly justified in telling others to live lives according to the rules of their sect. Money isn't the root of all evil; justification is the root of all evil: "Social norms / laws / my own moral code don't apply to me –because– I'm trying to …"

    This is a -science- story; please be respectful "people of God" and keep your worldview out of our belief system. We have no interest in your proselytizing.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  38. Real

    The symmetry is hard to argue, its a mistake or chance. It's not something rude and crude that is insulting. It's the shape of an EYE. Not a foot, hand, goat or horse. humans CANT see this without special equipment. If you don't believe this is by design, i feel sorry for you.
    SEEK and you shall find.
    Amen!

    January 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  39. ArchieDeBunker

    What's all this about "the eye of God?" When you see a cloud that accidentally forms a picture of a man's face, do you call it a "picture of God?" This is a natural phenomenon and has no more "God Significance" than a smoke ring.

    Also, to the guy who thinks the world is ending in December of 2012, you can relax. The Bible says that no man, and not even Jesus Christ himself, knows when the world will end. So, when you hear someone pinpoint the date of the end of the earth, plan a party for that day – it ain't happenin' then!

    I am a Christian, and I don't purposely destroy the earth, and I don't believe in the Global Warming is Caused By Burning Fossil Fuels nonsense either. Oh, and by the way, there is no global warming. The earth has been getting cooler in the past decade. Of course the Global Warming alarmists can't get grants and don't get paid for teling the truth, so that's why they keep covering up the truth.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Daniel

      tl:dr "Bible says world won't end this year, and global warming isn't real, cus scientists are liars who want money"

      January 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  40. Clarence

    $$$ if you can solve!!! Concerning Neutrinos going faster than the speed of light.
    Here are some major factors to consider: does gravity effect time. Does gravity effect the speed of light? The man made clock, crystal vibration changes near a large mass or does the dimension of time alter relative to a large mass of gravity. When man measures time underground is there more or less gravity. Does the gravity above and below alter the speed of light given the Gallium Neutrino Observatory is 5,000 feet underground?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  41. alex

    Devil's eye ...

    January 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  42. Clarence

    When man measures time underground is there more or less gravity. Does the gravity above and below alter the speed of light given the Gallium Neutrino Observatory is 5,000 feet underground.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Clarence

      To The Professor of Physics:
      Concerning Neutrinos going faster than the speed of light
      Here are some major factors to consider: does gravity effect time. Does gravity effect the speed of light? The man made clock, crystal vibration changes near a large mass or does the dimension of time alter relative to a large mass of gravity. When man measures time underground is there more or less gravity. Does the gravity above and below alter the speed of light given the Gallium Neutrino Observatory is 5,000 feet underground.

      When two relative masses are in motion what is manmade time? The Terrestrial (earth) equator rotates at 1000 miles per hour. The rotation speed at CERN is different than the rotation speed at Italy (faster). Remember the Gallium Neutrino Observatory is 5,000 feet in the ground. Nothing goes faster than the speed of light. Neutrinos are not moving faster than the speed of light? Can you solve this problem? Can you make the correction?

      Relative velocity time dilation
      When man measures time underground is there more or less gravity. Does the gravity above and below alter the speed of light given the Gallium Neutrino Observatory is 5,000 feet underground.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
      • Andrew

        ... Huh? The whole CERN-Gran Sasso thing is likely just a timing problem caused by the GPS syncronization process, there are very few particle physicists out there who honestly believe that the results will be confirmed. Hell, the scientists on the project itself don't expect it to be confirmed. (Though I quasi-hope it is, just because I've got a bet with a prof over a bottle of wine, 1000:1 odds, such that I win, I get bottle, she wins, she gets .75ml of wine.)

        January 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
      • Daniel

        That's a horrible wager, Andrew. How are you going to get a girl drunk on .75mL of wine?

        January 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  43. alex

    it seems God has one eye ..

    January 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Clarence

      Here is some work for you! $$$

      Postulates of special relativity
      1. First postulate (principle of relativity)
      The laws by which the states of physical systems undergo change are not affected, whether these changes of state be referred to the one or the other of two systems of coordinates in uniform translatory motion.
      2. Second postulate (invariance of c)
      As measured in any inertial frame of reference, light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c that is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  44. DarwinCharles

    Man's perception of God changes like the wind... Why can't people understand that science is the God(s) they've been worshipping for thousands of years!

    January 19, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  45. Tom B

    You Religious zealots are just dummer than a bag of hammers!

    January 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Mortalc01l

      Tom B: While I applaud your sentiment, I do not applaud the fact that you cannot spell "dumber". I'm just saying; you're making us look bad.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  46. JohnRJ08

    Sounds like "Purusha's Urn"......

    January 19, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  47. HeHasRizen

    So much hate in here. With the lord on my side I don't have to stress about the worthless things in the world. im 29 blessed with a wife and have two kids with my WIFE. I'd say im blessed and you can as well if you ask the lord to be in your heart and forgive your sins.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Phil

      There is so much hate in here from the religious people who spread misinformation and lies about an imaginary god and feel threatened and attacked when challenged by it.

      Just live your life and stop worrying about what's going to happen in the end. You won't visit with family in heaven, because it's not real - so visit with them now. This is the one and only chance we get.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Igor

      I wouldn't say hate. It's more of annoyance caused by some turning astronomers' rendering and explanation of cosmological phenomenon in an attempt to proselytize a particular religion. Let's make a deal, Stop claiming nebulae are proof of Jesus because of eye shapes from our perspective, and I will refrain from using crucifixes as historic proof of Romans nailing people to wood as punishment.

      January 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  48. Deltamds

    This picture was given to me several years ago by a NASA engineer. I am confused. I am taking a look at it now, is this a new pic?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • elandau

      Hi, well VISTA only became operational in 2009 so I'm not sure how many years ago you mean... but this is being released as a new image now, and the colors indicate infrared light.

      Thanks for reading!
      Elizabeth Landau, CNN

      January 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
      • Benny

        Thank you Ms. Landau. It is always refreshing to see the authors comment on their article discussions. It seems that CNN "Soundoff" enjoys being overly confrontational though. Shame really. I enjoyed your article and thank you for the hard work you do.

        !!! WARNING !!!

        To anyone who wanted to read this article and have an intelligent discussion concerning the beauty or even the science involved, please do not read any further into the posts.

        From this point further leads to nothing but madness and nonsense on both sides. I wish them all well in their pursuits and would request of you all in the future to keep religion out of science articles and science articles out of religion. It's disappointing to have to read such... Well, you all understand.

        January 27, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • JohnRJ08

      Looks like something out of "Purusha's Urn"....

      January 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
      • appapo

        As a matter of fact, it is. This is the nebula referred to in that book.

        January 20, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • ET

      Such a waste of money.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
      • Andrew

        A waste of money? How so? For an object that near, I have sincere doubts they even 'wasted' over an hour taking the exposure, and it gives grad students a nice object to preform analysis on. How is that a waste?

        January 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

        Such a waste of skin.

        January 20, 2012 at 1:57 am |
      • Daniel

        yeah, I bet that money would be better spent on proving creationism

        January 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
      • FaCtBaSeD Irby

        truth is god do not exist, but this nebula does, and it you ever want to get off this rock than you better pay attention

        January 21, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • SCinDM

      There is a similar photo of the Cat's Eye Nebula, that is probably what you saw before.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • SB

      Delta, you are mistaken. This image is new. The article does not say that the Helix Nebula has never been imaged before; a simple Google search will return others. The point is that it has never been imaged in this detail before. So no, you were not given *this* image at some point in the past. This image is new. You were given some other image.

      January 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Piffiest

      It's a "better" pic, not so much in the context of "new". But, we're seeing this from 700 years away – so Imagine in another 10 years, the other eye opens.... duh duh duuuuunnnn

      January 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
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