NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Planetary nebula NGC 246, Spitzer Space Telescope image. A planetary nebula is an expanding shell of gas around a dying star (centre). A ring of material (red) can be seen slightly offset from the cloud's core. This clump consists of material expelled from the aging star. When stars like our Sun run out of fuel their core shrinks and heats up, casting off the star's outer layers. This causes material to shoot outwards, to be lit by ultraviolet light from the star; producing huge glowing clouds. The photograph combines infrared images at four wavelengths: 3.6, 4.5, 5.8 and 8 microns. These were coloured blue, green, orange and red respectively.
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