In this new image from the Hubble Space Telescope, what looks like a top-down view of a luminous jellyfish deep space is actually the planetary nebula NGC 2022.
(Image credit: ESA / Hubble and NASA, R. Wade) [1
9659004] This amazing new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope seems to capture space jellyfish floating in space, but in reality, this structure is not a living being.
Instead, this object – known as NGC 2022 – shows what happens when an old star, similar in size to the sun, becomes obsolete and throws layers of gas. Astronomers call these objects planetary nebulae, because in the first low-power telescopes of the 1600s and 1700s, they looked a little like planets. Today we know that the term "planetary nebula
" is a misnomer – this nebula or gas cloud has nothing to do with planets.
Rather, NGC 2022 is a red giant star
. This is the next stage of evolution after a sun-like star (a star between three and eight masses of the sun) completes the conversion of hydrogen to helium into its core by fusion. The two types of light atoms bond or merge, creating a heavier atom.
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Eventually, stars of this type leak hydrogen into the nucleus. Gravity presses the star and causes temperatures to shrink during contraction. Once the temperature rises high enough, it is possible for the helium to merge into carbon – causing the star to expand to a much larger radius than before. This newly expanded star, called the red giant, then vents its outer layers of gas into space.
"More than half the mass of such a star can be thrown in this way, forming an envelope of surrounding gas," Hubble officials
said in a statement . "At the same time, the core of the star shrinks and becomes hotter, producing ultraviolet light that causes the exhaust gases to glow."
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The core of the star is visible in the center of the image, glowing bright yellow-orange. Its radiation illuminates the surrounding gas clouds, depicted in much cooler wavelengths of pink and purple.
is approximately 4.5 billion years old and is approximately half of its helium hydrogen phase. When its red giant phase arrives, the sun is expected to absorb much of the internal solar system – possibly including Earth. Either way, life is not expected to survive on our planet, but fortunately it is not expected to happen for another 4.5 billion years. This is enough time for people to come up with star travel and find a new place to live.
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