NGC 2452 (Image Credit: ESA/NASA (Acknowledgements: Luca Limatola, Budeanu Cosmin Mirel) (See a high-resolution image here.)

Meet NGC 2452: a planetary nebula that lurks within the constellation of Puppis.

This region, along with all other regions that are designated as planetary nebulae, formed once a star with the Sun's mass progressed beyond the red giant phase of stellar evolution (our own Sun will meet a similar fate in about 4 billion years). From that point, the star sheds what's left of its gaseous envelope, which then forms intricate filamentary structures. In its wake, it also leave behind a tiny, yet impressively hot (for a time) and luminous remnant—called a white dwarf.

Taken using the Hubble Space Telescope, NGC 2452 is a rare gem in many ways. Firstly, we have the extensive number of "petals" that intersect with the bright orbs of light from other stars (which are background and foreground stars that aren't directly associated with the nebula itself). These petals, in turn, are set alight by the small, dense, Earth-sized white dwarf that holds the remainder of the progenitor star's mass.

Our dead star still has one trick up its sleeve, it belongs to a subclass of white dwarfs that pulsate. According to the ESA, these pulsations, which see the star's luminosity vary over time, are driven by "gravity causes waves that pulse throughout the small star's body."



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