Opal overhead

141116 gemnebula 1
ESA / Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: J. Schmidt (geckzilla.com)

New colour filters on the Hubble Space Telescope highlight NGC 6818’s pinkish knotty filaments and two distinct turquoise layers: a bright, oval inner region and, draped over it like sheer fabric, a spherical outer region.

Also known as the Little Gem Nebula, the planetary nebula’s cloud of gas formed some 3,500 years ago when a star like the sun reached the end of its life and ejected its outer layers into space. 

As the layers of stellar material spread out from the nucleus – the white stellar remnant at the centre of the image – they ended up acquiring unusual shapes.

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