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Hubble image said to echo van Gogh 'Starry Night'

This image resembling Vincent van Gogh's
This image resembling Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" is Hubble's latest view of an expanding halo of light around a distant star.

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Hubble Space Telescope

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- It's astronomy, but is it art?

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope said they see similarities between a newly released image of a distant expanding star and Vincent van Gogh's painting "The Starry Night."

Astronomers said the Hubble image released on Thursday "bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of miles [kilometers] of interstellar space."

Still, there are obvious differences. Van Gogh's 1889 painting of the sky over a sleeping village is predominantly blue, while the Hubble pictures of a supergiant star called V838 Monocerotis show a glowing red center surrounded by wisps of gray interstellar dust.

The star gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light two years ago and Hubble has been keeping track of it ever since, taking a series of images that show the expanding illumination of the dusty cloud around the star.

This latest image, made February 8 by the Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, is the first to show swirls and eddies in the dust cloud, Hubble scientists said in a statement.

The red star is about 20,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn) at the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy.

A light-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers), the distance light travels in a year.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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