mouth of the beast
The cometary globule CG4 glows menacingly in this image from ESO's Very Large Telescope. (ESO)

The "mouth of the beast" has been captured by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

The image shows a cometary globule located 1,300 light years from Earth in the constellation of Puppis – also known as The Poop or Stern.

First discovered in 1976, these globules are located in a huge patch of glowing gas called the Gum Nebula.

This latest image shows CG4, which is sometimes referred to as God's Hand. Its head resembles "the head of the gigantic beast", having a diameter of 1.5 light years (about nine trillion miles).

Its tail, which is not visible, is about eight light years long – making it relatively small in astronomical standards. Although it appears very huge and bright in the latest image, it is actually extremely faint and difficult to observe.

Its exact nature remains a mystery to astronomers.

"The head part of CG4 is a thick cloud of gas and dust, which is only visible because it is illuminated by the light from nearby stars," ESO said in a statement.

"The radiation emitted by these stars is gradually destroying the head of the globule and eroding away the tiny particles that scatter the starlight.

"However, the dusty cloud of CG4 still contains enough gas to make several Sun-sized stars and indeed, CG4 is actively forming new stars, perhaps triggered as radiation from the stars powering the Gum Nebula reached CG4."