ADAM BLOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ADAM BLOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Abell 12 planetary nebula, optical image. The planetary nebula Abell 12 is almost hidden in the bright glare of the star Mu Orionis (61 Ori, centre). It is the faint orb seen slightly lower left of the star, with a dark green centre and a red outer ring. This planetary nebula is the result of gaseous shells being cast out from a small dying star. The gases in the nebula glow red and green as they are ionised by the radiation emitted from its inner star. Planetary nebulae are not related to planets, but had a planet-like appearance when viewed through early telescopes. Abell 12 lies about 7800 light years from Earth, in the constellation Orion.
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