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Description: Planetary nebula
Position (J2000): RA 10h 23m 9.00s Dec -60° 32' 43.00"
Distance: 6,600 light-years
Exposure Date(s): February, 2007
Image Credit: NASA, ESA & the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date: September 11, 2007
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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:
The colorful, intricate shape of this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals how the glowing gas ejected by dying Sun-like stars evolves dramatically over time.
This gaseous cloud, called a planetary nebula, is created when stars in the last stages of life cast off their outer layers of material into space. Ultraviolet light from the remnant star makes the material glow. Planetary nebulae last for only 10,000 years, a fleeting episode in the 10-billion-year lifespan of Sun-like stars.
The name planetary nebula has nothing to do with planets. They got their name because their round shapes resembled planets when seen through the small telescopes of the eighteenth century.
This is an image of He 2-47, a young planetary nebula. He 2-47 is small and is dominated by relatively cool, glowing nitrogen gas. Over thousands of years, the clouds of gas expand away and the nebulae become larger. Energetic ultraviolet light from the star penetrates more deeply into the gas, causing the hydrogen and oxygen to glow more prominently.
He 2-47 lies in our Milky Way Galaxy. It's distance from Earth is about 6,600 light-years. The snapshot was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in February 2007. Like snowflakes, planetary nebulae show a wide variety of shapes, indicative of the complex processes that occur at the end of stellar life.
He 2-47 is dubbed the "starfish" because of its shape. The six lobes of gas and dust, which resemble the legs of a starfish, suggest that He 2-47 puffed off material at least three times in three different directions. Each time, the star fired off a narrow pair of opposite jets of gas. He 2-47 is in the southern constellation Carina.
This image is a composite of many separate exposures made by the WFPC2 instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope. Three filters were used to sample narrow wavelength ranges. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic image. In this Hubble image, the red, green, and blue colors represent light emitted by nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen, respectively. In this case, the assigned colors are:
([O III]) blue Oxygen