Astronomy Photo of the Day: 5/3/14 – IRAS 22036+5306

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

This interesting feature is a rare find, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2011. The region, which is located some 6,500 light-years away from Earth (in the constellation of Cepheus), holds a very bright star and a strangely shaped-object (creatively dubbed “IRAS 22036+5306”).

The star responsible for the nebula’s formation is elderly and unstable, having already  coughed up the bulk of its outer envelope of gases, forming an intricate shell equipped with hot-jets of material, along with residual gas and knot filaments .

Interestingly, looking at this image, you would think the object is negligible in size. When,  in fact, the jets spewing from the star’s poles contain about ten thousand times more mass than Earth does. They subsequently send stellar material catapulting off at speeds reaching 800,000 km per hour.

In the future, when the star has exhausted all of its fuel for nuclear fusion, the nebula seen here will blossom into a fully-fledged planetary nebula (as opposed to now, when it’s still  classified as a protoplanetary nebula)  something our sun will experience too in about 4 billion years.

See a larger image here. Or see other nebulae like this that are strange.

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