The Hubble Space Telescope recently spotted a star’s gaseous glow and it is a haunting sight in space.
Named NGC 2022, this circular object is a vast orb of gas that is cast off by an elderly star and it’s located in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), NASA said in a press release. You can see the star in the orb’s center and it’s shining through the gases it used to hold onto for most of its stellar lifespan.
When stars get older, they grow in size and glow a red hue. Dubbed “red giants,” these stars then start to lose their outer layers of material into space. More than half of an elderly star’s mass can be lost this way, developing a shell of surrounding gas. Simultaneously, the aging star’s core becomes smaller and hotter, emitting ultraviolet light that causes the expelled gases to glow in the process.
Although it looks more like an entity seen through a microscope than a telescope, this rounded object, named NGC 2022, is a vast orb of gas in space, cast off by an ageing star. Credit: @ESA / @Hubble_Space / @NASA R. Wade https://t.co/zOVXp12mnV pic.twitter.com/99opx0kIoi
According to NASA, the rounded object above is called a planetary nebula, due to its circular, planet-like appearance. It represents a phase of stellar evolution that the sun is expected to experience several billion years from now. When a star, such as the sun, uses all of the hydrogen up in its core, it grows bigger and transforms into a red giant. During this phase, the star’s outer layers diminish, and eventually, it leaves behind a hot core that contracts to create a dense white dwarf star.