Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

December 11, 1995

NGC 5189: A Strange Planetary Nebula
Credit: Anglo-Australian Telescope photograph by David Malin
Copyright: Anglo-Australian Telescope Board

Explanation: After a Sun-like star can no longer support fusion in its core, the centre condenses into a white dwarf while the outer atmospheric layers are expelled into space and appear as a planetary nebula. This particular planetary nebula has a quite strange and chaotic structure. The inner part of this nebula contains an unusual expanding ring of gas that we see nearly edge-on. The exact mechanism that expels the planetary nebula gas is a current topic of astronomical speculation and research.

Tomorrow's picture: Shapley 1: An Annular Planetary Nebula

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