Image by Arnie Rosner (Additional Credit: W. B. Latter (SIRTF /Caltech) et al., NICMOS, HST, NASA)


NGC 7027, as it's called, is one of the youngest and brightest (yet relatively unknown) planetary nebula located in our galaxy. Amazingly, it's also quite small (comparatively). The actual nebula stretches out more than 14,000 AU's (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun), an act that likely started only 600 years ago. Most nebulae of this kind generally measure in at about 1 light-year (or a bit larger) in diameter.


It's absolutely fascinating to me that nebulae, formed in the same fashion (from the same general size and type of star), can create structures that look absolutely nothing alike. This is a great example of the great diversity --  a planetary nebula, located approximately 3,000 light-years from Earth (in the Cygnus constellation). These nebulae form after sun-like stars exhaust their supply of hydrogen found in their core, causing the stars to balloon in size whilst the process of helium consumption begins. Throughout this process, the outer-layers of material peel off (similar to an onion), forming a planetary nebula (a fate our sun will experience eventually.)


Larger Image can be found at NASA

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