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The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star becomes a white dwarf star. Officially tagged NGC 6537, this two-lobed symmetric nebula houses one of the hottest white dwarfs ever observed, probably as part of binary star system. Internal winds emanating from the central stars, shown in the central inset, have been measured in over 300 k/second. These hot winds expand the nebula, flow along the nebula's walls, and cause gas and dust to collide.
The Great Nebula in Orion is one of the most interesting of all astronomical nebulae known. Here fifteen pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope have been merged to show the great expanse and diverse nature of the nebula. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds.
M57: The Ring Nebula This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge.
It's the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the gas originated in the outer layers of a star. In this picture, the hot blue pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it's the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing.
Messier 27 (M27) is a gaseous emission nebula created as a sun-like star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core. The nebula forms as the star's outer layers are expelled into space, with a visible glow generated by atoms excited by the dying star's intense but invisible ultraviolet light. Known by the popular name of the "Dumbbell Nebula", the beautifully symmetric interstellar gas cloud is about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula.
The Horsehead Nebula, it is embedded in the vast and complex Orion Nebula. The dark molecular cloud, roughly 1,500 light years distant, is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the bright emission nebula IC 434. The bright blue reflection nebula NGC 2023 is visible on the lower left. The prominent horse head portion of the nebula is really just part of a larger cloud of dust which can be seen extending toward the bottom of the picture.