The Cat’s Eye

3000 light-years away from Earth, a dying star is throwing off shells of glowing gas. This picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the Cat’s Eye Nebula is one of the most complex planetary nebulae. The Cat’s Eye is so strangely complex that astronomers suspect the bright central object might be a binary star system. Planetary nebula is a term used to describe this general class of objects, but it is somewhat misleading. While these nebulae appear round and planet-like in small telescopes, more powerful instruments reveal them to be stars surrounded by cocoons of gas blown off in the later stages of stellar evolution.

Image Credit: NASA

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