The "coldest place in the universe" is negative 458 degrees Fahrenheit and looks like a Halloween ghost.
The Boomerang Nebula is believed to be colder than the afterglow of the Big Bang, which is believed to be the "background temperature" of the universe, a National Radio Astronomy Observatory news release reported.
The object is located 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. It is believed to be a relatively young nebula.
The Boomerang is a pre-planetary nebula, which is the stage in a star's life that takes place directly after the nebula phase. Since the star is not hot enough to give off its own light, it can be observed from the light of other stars reflecting off grains of dust.
Astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter (ALMA) Array Telescope to capture the haunting image.
The researchers are hoping to learn more about the nebula's properties, and find out why it has such a strange shape.
"This ultra-cold object is extremely intriguing and we're learning much more about its true nature with ALMA," Raghvendra Sahai, a researcher and principal scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and lead author of a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, said. "What seemed like a double lobe, or 'boomerang' shape, from Earth-based optical telescopes, is actually a much broader structure that is expanding rapidly into space."
The gas outflow of this particularly cold star is expanding rapidly, cooling the star in a manner similar to a refrigerator.
"When astronomers looked at this object in 2003 with Hubble, they saw a very classic 'hourglass' shape," Sahai said. "Many planetary nebulae have this same double-lobe appearance, which is the result of streams of high-speed gas being jettisoned from the star. The jets then excavate holes in a surrounding cloud of gas that was ejected by the star even earlier in its lifetime as a red giant."
A single-dish millimeter wavelength telescope did not detect the "narrow waist" picked up by Hubble, what it saw instead was a "nearly spherical outflow of material."
The team also found an army of dust particles surrounding the star. These particles could explain why the cloud has an hourglass appearance in certain light; the dust clouds "shade" certain areas of the cloud when it is in visible light.
"This is important for the understanding of how stars die and become planetary nebulae," Sahai said. "Using ALMA, we were quite literally and figuratively able to shed new light on the death throes of a Sun-like star."
The team believes areas of the nebula are beginning to warm, but even those regions are still colder than the cosmic microwave background.
"This warming may be due to the photoelectric effect -- an effect first proposed by Einstein in which light is absorbed by solid material, which then re-emits electrons," the news release stated.