Hubble Image Shows Planet Exploding

Nonsense. A new image of a planetary nebula taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera shows NGC 2440, a chaotic structure produced by the explosion of a dying star.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is littered with about 1500 of these stellar relics, but they're called planetary nebula because of their vague similarity in appearance to giant planets in old, less powerful, telescopes.

This image taken February 7, 2007 shows the colorful result of a star ending its life by blowing off outer layers of gas. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot left of center. Our Sun will eventually burn out and shroud itself with stellar debris, but not for another 5 billion years.

About 1500 years ago a star exploded in the constellation Lyra producing perhaps the most famous planetary nebula known as the Ring Nebula or M57, the 57th object in the Messier catalog.

The material expelled by the star glows with different colors depending on its composition, its density, and how close it is to the hot central star. Blue is helium; blue-green oxygen, and red nitrogen and hydrogen.

After the Big Bang the universe contained no heavy elements, but such explosions produced the elements that make up your body. You are, in a very real sense, a child of the stars.



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