A celestial hourglass on show

This latest image from the international Gemini Observatory showcases the planetary nebula CVMP 1.

Located around 6500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Circinus (The Compass), it is a striking spectacle, but it will be relatively short-lived. As its progenitor star slowly cools, it will fade from view over thousands of years.

CVMP 1 emerged when an old red giant star blew off its outer layers in the form of a tempestuous stellar wind. As this cast-aside atmosphere sped outwards, the hot exposed core of the progenitor star began to energise the ejected gases, causing them to glow. 

This formed the beautiful hourglass shape captured in this image. 

CVMP 1 is intriguing for more than just its aesthetic value, however. Astronomers have found the gases making up the hourglass are highly enriched with helium and nitrogen, and that CVMP 1 is one of the largest planetary nebulae known. This suggests it is highly evolved.

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