The star VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant, one of the largest known stars in the Milky Way. It is 30–40 times the mass of the Sun and 300 000 times more luminous. In its current state, the star would encompass the orbit of Jupiter, having expanded tremendously as it enters the final stages of its life. New observations of the star using the SPHERE instrument on the VLT have clearly revealed how the brilliant light of VY Canis Majoris lights up the clouds of material surrounding it and have allowed the properties of the component dust grains to be determined better than ever before. In this very close-up view from SPHERE the star itself is hidden behind an obscuring disc. The crosses are artefacts due to features in the instrument.