The resulting image shows a magnificent planetary nebula, which is one of the stages in the evolution of a sun-like star.
The Hubble Space Telescope received a snapshot of the spectacular planetary nebula NGC 2022, located 8 thousand light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Orion, which shows how the solar system might look like in the future.
“At the center of this huge space ball of gas is an aging star that held its outer layers for billions of years before dropping them into space,” a press release on the site of the space telescope said.
Massive stars live short and die young, flashing supernovae just a few million years after their birth. However, the vast majority of luminaries in the Universe, including our own Sun, do not have enough mass to create such a cosmic firework, and, having travelled billions of years, they pass into a short-term, but impressive phase of a planetary nebula.
The objects reminiscent of the ancient astronomers of the planet, but having nothing to do with them, are formed when only a small fraction of unburned hydrogen remains in the star’s core, and radiation pressure displaces most of the material from its outer shells. The smoldering hot “heart” of the star illuminates matter for a while, until it dissipates, creating a magnificent sight and providing visible and valuable information about the process of mass loss by the former star.