Image Credit: Carlos Milovic, Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA

Oh what a beautiful cosmic web we weave!

This little cosmic creepy crawler is the Red Spider planetary nebula (formal designation NGC 6537). It can be found about 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer).

First, it should be noted that planetary nebulae have absolutely nothing to do with planets. They were named as such because they resembled planets to early astronomers peeking at them through some of the first primitive telescopes. Nebulae like this form from the ejected materials expelled during the last phase of stellar evolution for Sun-like stars. As they continue to spit out the remainder of their outer envelope of gas through stellar winds, we get something quite spectacular to look at (as seen in this image)!

As mentioned previously, NGC 6537 is a planetary nebula, but it’s also bi-polar (two-lobed). Nebulae similar to this one exhibit a bi-polar structure of materials flowing from the center of the nebula. In this instance, at the center lies two white-dwarf stars, where internal winds have been observed blowing material out into space at approximately 621 miles (999 kilometers) per second.


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