A fried egg by any other name...

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What's in a name? Astronomers it seems have an eye for the prosaic when it comes to dreaming up suitable titles to describe both the kit they use and the phenomena they study.

To that end the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (soon to be superseded by the even bigger and more powerful Extremely Large Telescope), has been used to take the first pictures of one of the rarest types of star in the Universe - a colossal yellow hypergiant surrounded by a dusty double shell.

And what name have they come up with to describe this singular and beautiful stellar formation? Why it's the Fried Egg Nebula of course.

Looking at this image - taken using the VISIR infrared camera on the VLT - it's easy to see how IRAS 17163-3907, with its milky-white halo of dusty matter surrounding a yolky central star, acquired the name.

And the Fried Egg nebula is a monster. Shining some 500,000 times more brightly than the sun if it were placed at the centre of the solar system the Earth would lie deep within the star itself while Jupiter would be tracing a path just above its surface. The surrounding nebula would engulf the rest of the planets extending as far as some of the comets orbiting well beyond Neptune.

Thankfully for us the Fried Egg Nebula lies some 13 000 light years from Earth near the centre of the Milky Way. Although it was first discovered by the IRAS satellite in 1983 it has been overlooked by astronomers because it glows so faintly in visible light.

"It is amazing that one of the brightest stars in the infrared sky has previously gone unnoticed" says professor Albert Zijlstra from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics "We are seeing a very rare event, when a star is beginning to blow off its outer layers, as a prelude to its final explosion as a supernova."

That activity also shows the Fried Egg Nebula is doomed to a spectacular and explosive death - fated to briefly light up our galaxy as it blows itself apart.

Any bets on what we'll call it then? My money's on the Scrambled Egg Supernova.