Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Space the Final Frontier, Cat's Eye Nebula

Cat's Eye NebulaThree thousand light-years away, the Cat's Eye Nebula, a dying star throws off shells of glowing gas. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the nebula to be one of the most complex planetary nebulae known.
In fact, the features seen in the Cat's Eye are so complex that astronomers suspect the bright central object may actually be a binary star system. The term planetary nebula is misleading; although these objects may appear round and planet-like in small telescopes, high resolution images reveal them to be stars surrounded by cocoons of gas blown off in the late stages of stellar evolution. High Resolution Image

Image credit: NASA, J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) and K. J. Borkowski (NCSU)

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