MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Planetary nebula. Computer artwork of a planetary nebula spreading outwards from a star. A planetary nebula is a shell of gas ejected from a star near the end of its life. It appears as a ring because the gas is concentrated along the line-of-sight around the edge of the sphere. The glow can arise in particularly violent ejections as the gas impacts with the surrounding gas and dust of interstellar space. The star (centre) has collapsed, probably forming a white dwarf star. A white dwarf star is the final stage in the life of a Sun-like star. Its thermonuclear fires are spent and it will slowly cool over trillions of years.
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