August 8, 2011 Leave a comment
Let’s get an exit strategy, OK?
The sands of time are running out for the central star of this hourglass-shaped planetary nebula. With its nuclear fuel exhausted, this brief, spectacular, closing phase of a Sun-like star’s life occurs as its outer layers are ejected – its core becoming a cooling, fading white dwarf.
Delicate rings of glowing gas (nitrogen-red, hydrogen-green, and oxygen-blue) outline the tenuous walls of the hourglass.
The unprecedented sharpness of the HST images has revealed surprising details of the nebula ejection process, helping resolve the outstanding mysteries of the complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulas.