The Southern Crab

He2-104An unlikely pair of stars may have created this oddly-shaped nebula resembling nesting hourglasses. Images taken with Earth-based telescopes show the larger, hourglass-shaped nebula, but the Hubble telescope, reveals a smaller nebula embedded in the center of the larger one. See the insert The entire nebula is called the “Southern Crab Nebula” (He2-104) because it looks like the body and legs of a crab as seen from ground-based observatories. The likely source of the the larger and smaller nebulae is a pair of aging stars buried in the glow of the tiny, central nebula. One of them is a red giant, a bloated star that is exhausting its nuclear fuel and is shedding its outer layers in a powerful stellar wind. Its companion is a hot, white dwarf, a stellar zombie of a burned-out star.

Image Credit: NASA