Gallery of 4 Planetary Nebulas

A gallery of four Planetary Nebulas, in this composite image, shows X-ray emission from Chandra colored purple, and optical emission from the Hubble Space Telescope colored red, green and blue.

A planetary nebula results when a star like the sun becomes a red giant and sheds its outer layers. Our sun will become one, billions of years from now.

The four planetary nebulas are all located less than 5000 light years from Earth.

Gallery of 4 Planetary Nebulas

Four planetary nebulae as seen by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

This gallery shows four planetary nebulas from the first systematic survey of such objects in the solar neighborhood made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The planetary nebulas shown here are NGC 6543, also known as the Cat’s Eye, NGC 7662, NGC 7009 and NGC 6826. In each case, X-ray emission from Chandra is colored purple and optical emission from the Hubble Space Telescope is colored red, green and blue.

In the first part of this survey, published in a new paper, twenty one planetary nebulas within about 5000 light years of the Earth have been observed. The paper also includes studies of fourteen other planetary nebulas, within the same distance range, that Chandra had already observed.

Gallery of Planetary Nebulas

Four planetary nebulas as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

A planetary nebula represents a phase of stellar evolution that the Sun should experience several billion years from now. When a star like the Sun uses up all of the hydrogen in its core, it expands into a red giant, with a radius that increases by tens to hundreds of times. In this phase, a star sheds most of its outer layers, eventually leaving behind a hot core that will soon contract to form a dense white dwarf star. A fast wind emanating from the hot core rams into the ejected atmosphere, pushes it outward, and creates the graceful, shell-like filamentary structures seen with optical telescopes.

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