Astronomers using the European Space Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) captured images of a colossal star, belonging to one of the rarest classes of the stars in the universe - yellow hypergiants - which are massive and short-lived.
Located at a distance of about 13,000 light-years from the Earth, the newly-discovered body is the closest yellow hypergiant found to date and observations suggest it shines some 500,000 times more brightly than the Sun.
The monster star, known to astronomers as IRAS 17163-3907, has a diameter about a thousand times bigger than the Sun and has been dubbed the Fried Egg Nebula, due to the star and its surrounding shells resembling a yolk and egg white.
The new picture is the best ever taken of a star in this class and shows, for the first time, a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant.
This object was known to glow brightly in infrared, but surprisingly nobody had identified it as a yellow hypergiant before, Eric Lagadec, of ESO, who led the team that produced the new images, said.
According to ESO, yellow hypergiants are in an extremely active phase of their evolution, undergoing a series of explosive events - this star has ejected four times the mass of the Sun in just a few hundred years. The material flung out during these bursts has formed the extensive double shell of the nebula, which is made of dust rich in silicates and mixed with gas.
This activity also shows that the star is likely to die an explosive death - it could be one of the next few supernova explosions in our galaxy.
The Very Large Telescope mid-IR instrument, VISIR, captured this image of the Fried Egg Nebula through three mid-infrared filters that are colored blue, green and red.