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.
The Eight-Burst Nebula, which is officially designated NGC 3132, is what's known as a planetary nebula. That name is a pretty big misnomer, since they actually have nothing to do with planets. They simply look a bit like gas planets- although in this particular case, it would have to be a pretty misshapen gas giant - and that comparison has stuck as an official term. This gaseous cloud is really the result of stellar material being emitted by stars in their final stages of life.
A NASA astronomer explains:
Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun. In this representative color picture, the hot blue pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it's the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.