The unusual Red Rectangle nebula

The Red Rectangle Nebula, so called because of its red color and unique rectangular shape, is a protoplanetary nebula in the Monoceros constellation. Also known as HD 44179, the nebula was discovered in 1973 during a rocket flight associated with the AFCRL Infrared Sky Survey called Hi Star.

Larger image

The nebula is shown above in great detail as recently reprocessed image from Hubble Space Telescope.

The binary system at the center of the nebula was first discovered by Robert Grant Aitken in 1915.

The Red Rectangle nebula lies about 2,300 light years away from us.

Diffraction-limited speckle images of it in visible and near infrared light reveal a highly symmetric, compact bipolar nebula with X-shaped spikes which imply toroidal dispersion of the circumstellar material. The central binary system is completely obscured, providing no direct light.

via APOD