Image: A chameleon sky

September 3, 2010
Image Credit: NASA, WFPC2, HST, R. Sahai and J. Trauger (JPL)

The sands of time are running out for the central star of this the Hourglass 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 and its core becomes a cooling, fading white dwarf.

In 1995, astronomers used the to make a series of images of planetary nebulae, including the one above. Here, delicate rings of colorful glowing gas (nitrogen-red, hydrogen-green, and oxygen-blue) outline the tenuous walls of the 'hourglass.'

The unprecedented sharpness of Hubble's images revealed surprising details of the nebula ejection process and may resolve the outstanding mystery of the variety of complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulae.

Explore further: Dying star creates fantasy-like sculpture of gas and dust

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1 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2010
The Hourglass Nebula looks remarkably like the event that occurred here ~5 billion years (~5 x 10^9 yrs) ago at the birth of the Solar System ["Isotopes of tellurium, xenon and krypton in the Allende meteorite retain record of nucleosynthesis", Nature 277, 615-620 (1979)]:

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

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