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: Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

18 hours ago

It might look like a spoked wheel or even a "Chakram" weapon wielded by warriors like "Xena," from the fictional TV show, but this ringed galaxy is actually a vast place of stellar life. A newly released ...

New window on the early Universe

Oct 22, 2014

Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Cardiff see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from galaxies at the edge of ...

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