The last breath of a dying star – ScienceDaily


A fast shell of luminous gas that spreads into space – the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 – dominates this image [1]. This planetary nebula is the remains of a giant dead star that has removed its outer layer, leaving a very hot little dwarf star. These diminishing remnants will gradually cool and fade, undergoing his days as the ghost of a red giant star who used to be very broad.

Red giants are stars at the end of their lives that have run out of hydrogen fuel in their nuclei and begin to contract under a destructive gravitational grip. When the red giant shrank, great pressure reignited the star's core, causing it to throw its outer layer into emptiness as a strong star wind. The incandescent core of the dying star emits ultraviolet radiation that is strong enough to ionize this ejected layer and cause it to glow. The result is what we see as planetary nebulae – the last, brief proof of an ancient star at the end of its lifetime [2].

This dazzling planetary Nebula is found as part of the National Geographic Society? -? Palomar Observatory Sky Survey in the 1950s, and recorded in the Abell Catalog Planetary Nebulae in 1966 [3]. About 1,400 light years from Earth, ESO 577-24 ghost light is only visible through a powerful telescope. When the dwarf star cools, the nebula will continue to expand into space, slowly fading from view.

This ESO 577-24 image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems Program, an initiative that produces images of objects that are interesting, intriguing, or visually interesting using ESO telescopes for educational and public outreach purposes. This program utilizes telescope time which cannot be used for scientific observations; however, the data collected is available to astronomers through the ESO Science Archive.


[1] The planetary Nebula was first observed by astronomers in the 18th century – for them, dim light and sharp lines resembled the planets of the Solar System.

[2] When our Sun evolves into a red giant, the sun will reach an honorable 10 billion years. However, there is no need to panic immediately – the sun is only 5 billion years old.

[3] Astronomical objects often have a variety of official names, with different catalogs that provide different designations. The official name of this object in the Abell Catalog Planetary Nebulae is PN A66 36.

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