On 2 July, 2011 NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 snapped this image of a newly discovered planetary nebula. The Necklace Nebula is located 15,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Sagitta.
Created from the glowing remains of an ordinary sun-like star, the Necklace Nebula consists of a bright ring – 12 trillion miles wide – dotted with dense, bright knots of gasses that resemble the diamonds of a necklace.
The composite image shows the nebula glowing in blue (hydrogen), green (oxygen) and red (nitrogen).
Also named PN G054.2-03.4, a pair of stars orbiting close together produced the nebula. About 10,000 years ago, one of the aging stars expanded to the point where it engulfed its companion. The smaller star continued orbiting inside its larger companion, increasing the giant’s rotation rate.
The bloated companion star spun so fast that a large part of it expanded into space. Due to centrifugal force, most of the gas escaped along the star’s equator which produced the ring.
The two companions are so close (two million miles or so) that they appear as one bright dot in the center. The stars are furiously whirling around each other, completing an orbit in little more than a day.
To find out more visit the official Hubble site here.
Isn’t space wonderful!