October262012
Colorful Demise
The Helix Nebula, which is the last gasp of a dying star, shows beautiful detail in this combined ultraviolet and infrared image from two space telescopes. The star was once much like the Sun, but as it neared the end of its life it underwent a series of dramatic changes. These culminated with the end of nuclear energy production in the star’s core and the expulsion of its outer layers of gas. Today, these layers are expanding into space, providing raw materials for future stars and planets. Ultraviolet energy from the hot, dead core, known as a white dwarf, causes the gas to glow. Over thousands of years, the gas will dissipate and the Helix Nebula will disappear from view. The Helix is known as a planetary nebula because of its resemblance to a planet when viewed through a telescope. It is about 650 light-years away. [NASA/JPL/Caltech]

Colorful Demise

The Helix Nebula, which is the last gasp of a dying star, shows beautiful detail in this combined ultraviolet and infrared image from two space telescopes. The star was once much like the Sun, but as it neared the end of its life it underwent a series of dramatic changes. These culminated with the end of nuclear energy production in the star’s core and the expulsion of its outer layers of gas. Today, these layers are expanding into space, providing raw materials for future stars and planets. Ultraviolet energy from the hot, dead core, known as a white dwarf, causes the gas to glow. Over thousands of years, the gas will dissipate and the Helix Nebula will disappear from view. The Helix is known as a planetary nebula because of its resemblance to a planet when viewed through a telescope. It is about 650 light-years away. [NASA/JPL/Caltech]