The Necklace Nebula is a looker, but there's a dramatic story behind its beauty. A newly released Hubble Space Telescope image highlights how the nebula got its flashy nickname. It looks like a wide oval of glittering cosmic gemstones.
Hubble is jointly run by
and ESA. NASA shared the planetary nebula image on Friday. The necklace is the work of two aging stars ESA describes as "doomed." One of them expanded and encompassed the other around 10,000 years ago.
"The smaller star continued to orbit inside its larger companion, increasing the bloated giant's rotation rate until large parts of it spun outwards into space," said ESA. "This escaping ring of debris formed the Necklace Nebula, with particularly dense clumps of gas forming the bright 'diamonds' around the ring."
You can spot the stars as the bright dot in the center of the nebula. It looks like a single point of light, but it's actually the two companions huddled together cosmically close. According to ESA, they orbit around each other in just over a day.
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The nebula's official name is PN G054.203.4 and it's located 15,000 light-years from Earth in "the Arrow" constellation Sagitta.
The image is a new, improved version of a previous view of the Necklace Nebula from 2011. The Hubble team has been going through and reprocessing some earlier images using better technology than was available at the time.
The necklace is a fitting companion to Hubble's recent 31st anniversary image of monster-sized star AG Carinae, which has a glowing ring-like look of its own. These space baubles are one way Hubble is communicating the wonders of the universe to all of us back on Earth.
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