Image: A chameleon sky

Sep 03, 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: The riddle of galactic thin–thick disk solved

Related Stories

Hubble Captures Stars Going Out in Style

Sep 11, 2007

The colorful, intricate shapes in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope images reveal how the glowing gas ejected by dying Sun-like stars evolves dramatically over time.

The Colorful Demise of a Sun-Like Star

Feb 13, 2007

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the colorful "last hurrah" of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around ...

The Last Confessions of a Dying Star

Mar 04, 2008

Probing a glowing bubble of gas and dust encircling a dying star, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a wealth of previously unseen structures.

Dying star creates fantasy-like sculpture of gas and dust

Sep 09, 2004

A new study of a large number of planetary nebulae has revealed that rings, such as those seen here around the Cat's Eye Nebula, are much more common that thought so far and have been found in at least one third ...

Recommended for you

The riddle of galactic thin–thick disk solved

Apr 24, 2015

A long-standing puzzle regarding the nature of disk galaxies has finally been solved by a team of astronomers led by Ivan Minchev from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), using state-of-the-art ...

Giant cosmic tsunami wakes up comatose galaxies

Apr 24, 2015

Galaxies are often found in clusters, with many 'red and dead' neighbours that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers, led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory ...

Astronomers find runaway galaxies

Apr 23, 2015

We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy forever. Now, astronomers have spotted 11 runaway galaxies that have been flung out of their homes ...

Celestial fireworks celebrate Hubble's 25th anniversary

Apr 23, 2015

The glittering tapestry of young stars flaring to life in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image aptly resembles an exploding shell in a fireworks display. This vibrant image of the star cluster Westerlund ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
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)]: www.omatumr.com/Origin.htm

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.