NASA / ESA / STSCI / HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / ESA / STSCI / HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Dumbbell nebula. Hubble Space Telescope image of part of the Dumbbell planetary nebula (M27). Planetary nebulae are so named as they resemble planets in the small telescopes through which they were first discovered. They comprise shells of gas cast off by a star towards the end of its life. Radiation from the white dwarf remnant of the star ionises the gas, causing it to glow. It is thought that the star (not seen) at the centre of this nebula cast off the gas around 4000 years ago. The Dumbbell nebula lies around 1240 light years from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula. Our Sun will end its life in this way in some 5 billion years.
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