A Possible Future


Stars like our Sun end their lives by casting off their outer layers, briefly forming a spectacular “planetary nebula” like the Helix Nebula. In 5 billion years or so, our Sun will probably go through a similar blowout.

This brief video fades between images taken at different wavelengths which show different aspects of the nebula. Optical: Hot gas ejected from a dying star glows. Near-Infrared: Near-infrared light reveals cooler material. Mid-far-Infrared: Warm dust is identified in mid-infrared light. Infrared-Ultraviolet: The ultraviolet light traces the hot gas being expelled from the dying star.

Video Credit: STScI

A 3D Model of the Helix Nebula


The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is a large planetary nebula located in the constellation Aquarius. It’s about 700 light-years away. The Helix Nebula has sometimes been referred to as the “Eye of God.” Tolkien fans have occasionally called it the “Eye of Sauron”

This animation of a 3-D model was created from Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data of the Helix Nebula.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

The Helix Nebula


The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is a large planetary nebula located in the constellation Aquarius. It’s about 700 light-years away. The Helix Nebula has sometimes been referred to as the “Eye of God.” Tolkien fans have occasionally called it the “Eye of Sauron”

This animation of a 3-D model was created from Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data of the Helix Nebula.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

The Helix Nebula


helixnebulaThis infrared image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope looks a bit like Sauron’s eye. It’s the Helix Nebula, a cosmic site often photographed by amateur astronomers because of its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. It’s about 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius and belongs to a class of objects called planetary nebulae.

Planetary nebulae are the remains of stars that were once like our Sun. When these stars die, they puff out their outer gaseous layers which are heated by the hot core of the dead star. The remnant becomes a white dwarf and shines with infrared and visible light. Our Sun probably will expand into a planetary nebula in around five billion years.

Spitzer‘s infrared view of the Helix nebula shows the outer gaseous layers is in blues and greens. The red color in the middle of the eye is the final layers of gas blown out when the star died. Blue shows infrared light of 3.6 to 4.5 µm wavelengths, green shows infrared light of 5.8 to 8 µm, and red shows infrared light of 24 µm.

The brighter red circle in the very center is the glow of the dust circling the white dwarf. This dust is thought to have been kicked up by comets that survived the death of the original star. Before the star died, its comets and possibly planets would have orbited the star in an orderly fashion. But when the star blew off its outer layers, it’s inner planets would have been swallowed up in its expanding shell, but the icy bodies and outer planets would have been stirred up and into tossed into each other, creating a cosmic dust storm. The Helix nebula is one of only a few dead-star systems in which evidence for cometary survivors has been found.

Image Credit: NASA

The Helix Nebula in Infrared


helix-nebula-in-ir

When viewed in IR by the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Helix Nebula shows a glow that suggests that the central star is surrounded by an unusual cloud of dust. One theory is that the cloud is made up of debris from collisions between the material ejected by the star when it exploded and the comets and other bodies in that star’s equivalent of the Solar System’s Kuiper Belt.

Image Credit: NASA

Another Look at the Helix


Helix_VISTAESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) captured this unusual view of the Helix Nebula ( aka NGC 7293). The planetary nebula is labout 700 light-years away. This false color picture was created from images taken through three different infrared filters. The telescope’s infrared vision reveals cold nebular gas that is mostly obscured in visible images of the Helix.

Image Credit: ESO / VISTA / J. Emerson.
Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Helix Nebula


The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is a large planetary nebula located in the constellation Aquarius. It’s about 700 light-years away. The Helix Nebula has sometimes been referred to as the “Eye of God.” Tolkien fans have occasionally called it the “Eye of Sauron”

This animation of a 3-D model was created from Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data of the Helix Nebula.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

The Helix Nebula


helixnebulaThis infrared image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope looks a bit like Sauron’s eye. It’s the Helix Nebula, a cosmic site often photographed by amateur astronomers because of its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. It’s about 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius and belongs to a class of objects called planetary nebulae.

Planetary nebulae are the remains of stars that were once like our Sun. When these stars die, they puff out their outer gaseous layers which are heated by the hot core of the dead star. The remnant becomes a white dwarf and shines with infrared and visible light. Our Sun probably will expand into a planetary nebula in around five billion years.

Spitzer‘s infrared view of the Helix nebula shows the outer gaseous layers is in blues and greens. The red color in the middle of the eye is the final layers of gas blown out when the star died. Blue shows infrared light of 3.6 to 4.5 µm wavelengths, green shows infrared light of 5.8 to 8 µm, and red shows infrared light of 24 µm.

The brighter red circle in the very center is the glow of the dust circling the white dwarf. This dust is thought to have been kicked up by comets that survived the death of the original star. Before the star died, its comets and possibly planets would have orbited the star in an orderly fashion. But when the star blew off its outer layers, it’s inner planets would have been swallowed up in its expanding shell, but the icy bodies and outer planets would have been stirred up and into tossed into each other, creating a cosmic dust storm. The Helix nebula is one of only a few dead-star systems in which evidence for cometary survivors has been found.

Image Credit: NASA