ScienceShot: Christmas Ornament in Space

NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

While trimming the tree (or just admiring your neighbors' efforts), take a moment to think of the fantastic lighting displays taking place in deep space. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have spied one notable bauble resembling a blown-glass ornament wrapped with a golden ribbon. The planetary nebula NGC 5189, actually the aftermath of a stellar explosion, lies about 3000 years away in the Southern Hemisphere constellation Musca (Latin for "fly"), a minor grouping of stars near the Southern Cross. Much of the nebula's material was expelled into space during the death throes of a medium-sized star , researchers noted online today. The glowing, bluish lobes of the 2-light-year-diameter nebula aren't expanding uniformly in all directions, possibly because the dying star—whose remnants are now a white dwarf in the center of the nebula—had a close-orbiting companion. The twisting ribbon of material encircling the nebula is shaped by the stellar winds and radiation spewing from the central star.

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