Astronomers have found what they have described as a "ghostly green bubble" enveloping stars like an expanding ball of slime.
The "green bubble" is actually the colourful and spectacular atmosphere of a dying star being blown into space.
Massive releases of energy "like huge thermonuclear belches" are illuminated in the picture by radiation from the star's core, making them glow.
Their colour depends on the make up of gas. Green indicates oxygen. The star, now a white dwarf, can be seen in the centre of the image as a blue/white spot.
Although doomed it will still take billions of years to cool down.
The VLT, based in Chile, is the "world's most advanced optical instrument" although it will soon lose this crown to the planned European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) due for completion in 2022.