Photo Release.

NGC 2392: A Beautiful End to a Star’s Life.

NGC 2392 is a planetary nebula, a phase that results when a star like the sun becomes a red giant and sheds its outer layers. X-rays from Chandra (pink) shows superheated gas around the dense, hot core of the star. Our Sun will become a planetary nebula about 5 billion years from now. Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAA-CSIC/N.Ruiz et al, Optical: NASA/STScI

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Photo Release.

Dying star creates fantasy-like sculpture of gas and dust.

Halo of the Cat's Eye.
Not a Falcon 9 rocket launch after sunset, the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its haunting symmetries are seen in the very central region of this composited picture, processed to reveal an enormous but extremely faint halo of gaseous material, over three light-years across. Made with data from ground- and space-based telescopes it shows the extended emission which surrounds the brighter, familiar planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star. But only more recently have some planetaries been found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier active episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years old.
Image Credit & Copyright: Data: Michael Joner (West Mountain Observatory, BYU), Romano Corradi (IAC), Hubble Legacy Archive - Processing: Robert Gendler.