n-a-s-a: A map of our galaxy the Milky Way, showing pulsars (red), planetary nebulae (blue), globular clusters (yellow), and the orbits of several stars

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This planetary nebula, Mz3, is being cast off by a star similar to our Sun. The 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the light-year long length of the structure, and the magnetism of the star visible at the nebula's center, all imply Mz3 is hiding a second, dimmer star that orbits close in to the bright star. A competing hypothesis holds that the central star's own spin and magnetic field are channeling the gas. (ESA, NASA's Hubble, JPL-CalTech)

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The Cosmic Spare Tire (IC 5148) is a beautiful planetary nebula located some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Grus (The Crane). The nebula has a diameter of a couple of light-years, and it is still growing at over 50 kilometres per second — one of the fastest expanding planetary nebulae known.

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Cat's eye nebula, NASA Hubble image. I want to dance under the stars in the eyes of God.

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The Butterfly Nebula - NGC 6302 (also called the Bug Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, or Caldwell 69) is a bipolar planetary nebula in the constellation Scorpius. The structure in the nebula is among the most complex ever observed in planetary nebulae. The spectrum of NGC 6302 shows that its central star is one of the hottest stars in the galaxy, with a surface temperature in excess of 200,000 K, implying that the star from which it formed must have been very large. | Universe

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The sands of time are running out for the central star of this hourglass-shaped planetary nebula. With its nuclear fuel exhausted, this brief, spectacular, closing phase of a Sun-like star's life occurs as its outer layers are ejected - its core becoming a cooling, fading white dwarf. In 1995, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to make a series of images of planetary nebulae, including the one above. Here, delicate rings of colorful glowing gas (nitrogen-red, hydrogen-green…

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A map of the Milky Way, showing pulsars (red), planetary nebulae (blue), globular clusters (yellow), and the orbits of several stars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way

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Planetary nebula IC 4406 in the constellation Lupus Image credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

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The hazy and aptly named Fine Ring Nebula, shown here, is an unusual planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae form when some dying stars, having expanded into a red giant phase, expel a shell of gas as they evolve into white dwarfs. Most planetary nebulae are either spherical or elliptical in shape, or bipolar (featuring two symmetric lobes of material).

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