EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / S. STEINHOEFEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / S. STEINHOEFEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Stellar evolution, artwork. Born from clouds of gas and dust (nebulae, bottom left), stars like our Sun slowly burn hydrogen into the heavier element helium. After several billion years, their fuel is almost exhausted and they start swelling, pushing away their outer layers. This expansion is the red giant stage (across centre), accompanied by increasing instability. The final stage is the formation of a planetary nebula, when most of the star's mass is shed outwards (upper right), leaving a remnant core known as a white dwarf. The colours of the planetary nebula are caused by the ejected stellar material impacting the surrounding interstellar medium.Restrictions:.
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