Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2000 August 2
Explanation: The Crescent Nebula is a rapidly expanding shell of gas surrounding a dying star. In this recently released image by the Hubble Space Telescope, a bright dynamic part of the nebula three light-years across is shown in representative colour. The Crescent Nebula began to form about 250,000 years ago as central Wolf-Rayet star WR 136 began to shed its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, expelling the equivalent of our Sun's mass every 10,000 years. This wind has been impacting surrounding interstellar gas, compacting it into a series of complex shells, and lighting it up. The Crescent Nebula, also known as NGC 6888, lies about 4,700 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus and can only be seen through a telescope. Star WR 136 will probably undergo a supernova explosion sometime in the next million years.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.