It may look as if a child’s soap bubble has strayed in front of a camera lens, but this extraordinary image from the heavens shows a newly discovered planetary nebula.
The phenomenon, which is caused when stars die and blast out a glowing shell of gas and plasma, was spotted by an amateur astronomer earlier this month.
Most planetary nebulae are elliptical or cigar-shaped, but in this case, its unusual shape was caused after a vast spherical cloud of gas was ejected from each pole of an ageing star.
This dramatic image was obtained using Arizona’s Kitt Peak Mayall 4-metre telescope, which pointed in the direction of the constellation of Cygnus.
Experts said the new nebula was not discovered until recently as it was too faint to detect.
Planetary nebula are a relatively short-lived phenomenon, lasting a few tens of thousands of years, compared to a typical stellar lifetime of several billion years.