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Hubble unearths a little gem of a nebula

The Little Gem Nebula is located in the constellation of Sagittarius, roughly 6,000 light-years away Earth.

This Hubble Space Telescope image that has just been released shows the rich glow of the cloud just over half a light-year across surrounding its tiny central star.

The European Space Agency writes:

When stars like the Sun enter retirement, they shed their outer layers into space to create glowing clouds of gas called planetary nebulae. This ejection of mass is uneven, and planetary nebulae can have very complex shapes. NGC 6818 shows knotty filament-like structures and distinct layers of material, with a bright and enclosed central bubble surrounded by a larger, more diffuse cloud.

Scientists believe that the stellar wind from the central star propels the outflowing material, sculpting the elongated shape of NGC 6818. As this fast wind smashes through the slower-moving cloud it creates particularly bright blowouts at the bubble’s outer layers.

Hubble previously imaged this nebula in 1997 with its Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, using a mix of filters that highlighted emission from ionised oxygen and hydrogen. This image, while from the same camera, uses different filters to reveal a different view of the nebula. A version of the image was submitted to the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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