The Little Ghost Nebula offers a glimpse of the fate of our Sun, which could produce its own planetary nebula about 5 billion years from now. Round and planet-shaped, the nebula (AKA, NGC 6369) is also relatively faint—thus the nickname Little Ghost Nebula. Planetary nebulae really have nothing to do with planets. They are created at the end of a sun-like star’s life as its outer layers expand into space while the star’s core shrinks to become a white dwarf. The transformed white dwarf star in the middle of the nebula radiates strongly at ultraviolet wavelengths and powers the expanding nebula’s glow. This nebula’s main ring structure is about a light-year across and the glow from ionized oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms are colored blue, green, and red respectively.
BTW. about a billion years earlier, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will have merged, probably causing significant changes in the galactic neighborhood.
Image Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team