This image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the Engraved Hourglass Nebula – also known as MyCn 18 – with an unusual eye in its centre.
This represents the end of the giant star’s lifecycle. As their nuclear fuel runs out, sun-like stars eject their outer layers and the core becomes a cooling, fading white dwarf.
The hourglass shape is comprised of colourful glowing rings of gas being expelled from the star: nitrogen (red), hydrogen (green) and oxygen (blue).
The clarity of Hubble images shows fascinating detail of the nebula ejection process, helping to solve the mysteries of their complex shapes and symmetries.
Originally published by Cosmos as Space is watching
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