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A Cosmic Holiday Ornament, Hubble-Style
A Cosmic Holiday Ornament, Hubble-Style

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.

Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star like our Sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope. This material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures.

A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the nebula's bluish lobes, located above and below the central region. The nebula is made up mostly of clumps and strings of gas.

This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)