Minggu, 24 April 2011

The incredible Cat's Eye Nebula captured by the Hubble Telescope

These are the spectacular death throes of a distant star captured through the Hubble telescope.

The Cat's Eye Nebula may be three thousand light years from earth - but its fate is the one that likely awaits our own sun, albeit in about 5 billion years.

As a dying star nears the end of its red giant phase, its outer layers are expelled outwards forming the outer concentric circles seen in the image that stretch for millions of miles.

Death throes: The latest Hubble Telescope image of the Cat's Eye Nebula, which is three thousand light years away from earth. It The concentric circles are the star's outer layers being expelled into outer space.

his explosion exposes the pulsating core of the star.

But the formation of the entrancing blue gas clouds at the centre of the image are not well understood, as the process stems from the inner nuclear reactions of a star that hold the secrets of the formation of the galaxy.

During its lifetime a star emits light from the nuclear fusion reaction that converts hydrogen to helium in a star's core.

When the star's supply of hydrogen begins to runs out, the fusion reaction at its core becomes increasingly unstable and the star begins to expand into the red giant phase.

Expanding: This image of the same nebula was taken in 2004, and shows how the matter from the star is slowly expanding. The nebula will last for around 10,000 years

As the star expands further, the nuclear fusion reaction at the heart of the star begins to stall, creating a series of increasingly strong energy pulsations as the star becomes increasingly unstable.

The last pulsation casts the star's outer shell into outer space, exposing the core.

The glowing clouds inside the nebula are caused by the exposed core of the star to ionize the surrounding atmosphere, emitting light.

But scientists are yet to fully understand this reaction.

The Cat's Eye Nebula was one of the first to be captured by the Hubble telescope and it will remain in the nebula stage for around ten thousands of years.

Planetary nebula play a key role in distributing matter across the universe. While space is mainly composed of helium and hydrogen, the star's nuclear fusion reaction creates carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the outers shell of the star which is then ejected into outer space.


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