Thousands of light years away in the constellation Draco shines the Cat's Eye planetary nebula. Formed when a star transitions into a red giant and sheds its outer layers, the planetary nebula will shed gas until only a hot, dense core of a white dwarf is left behind.
This weird, hourglass-shaped structure is a planetary nebula, the not entirely accurate name given to the clump of gas that forms after a dying sun ejects it outer layers. Astronomers recently looked at over a hundred of these nebulae in the Milky Way's galactic center. Shockingly, a huge number of the nebulae appear…
In 1797, legendary astronomer William Herschel first caught sight of this object and declared it "a very remarkable phenomenon." Although it's sometimes called the Clownface Nebula, it's probably better known as the Eskimo Nebula, because it resembles (however vaguely) a person's face inside a parka hood.
Also known as the Eight-Burst Nebula — or, if we want to be all boring and technical, NGC 3132 — this cosmic beauty is located some 2,000 light-years from Earth. It's not actually a regular nebula at all, but instead it's what's known as a planetary nebula, the result of a star dying and venting its remaining gas into…
Could this be a cosmic-scale amoeba like the one encountered by the Enterprise crew in “Immunity Syndrome?” More likely, it’s the planetary nebula IC 1295 — a glowing green bubble made from gas that’s being blown out by a dying star.
This absolutely gorgeous image from the European Southern Observatory reveals a planetary nebula, the short-lived phenomenon between the death of a star and birth of a white dwarf that has nothing to do with planets.
What is this strange astronomical formation? A more fanciful interpretation is that it's a vast cosmic eye, but then its official designation - planetary nebula - isn't much more helpful, considering it's neither a planet nor even really a nebula.
This tiny white dwarf and the shell of gas that surrounds it was once a star very much like our Sun, and the gas is positioned just right so that it looks like a faint, glowing ring in space.
The "Necklace Nebula" is obviously not a necklace and, somewhat less obviously, it's not a nebula either. It's actually a planetary nebula, a not particularly accurate term for the remnants of an exploded star. Still...that's one expensive-looking nebula.
The evocatively named Eight-Burst Nebula is formed from the gases spewing forth from two dying stars. But that's about all we know for sure about this strangely shaped cosmic oddity.
This dying star in the constellation of Cygnus will soon complete its transformation into what's known as a planetary nebula, which will play a vital role in returning enriched elements to the galaxy at large.
This spring, the Spitzer Space Telescope exhausted its supply of coolant, causing its infrared camera to warm. But the Spitzer Mission goes on, capturing dying and newly forming stars with less chilly eyes.