Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

January 6, 1998
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The Red Spider Planetary Nebula
Credit: B. Balick (U. Washington) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation: Oh what a tangled web a planetary nebula can weave. The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star ejects its outer gases and 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 excess of 300 kilometers per second. These hot winds expand the nebula, flow along the nebula's walls, and cause gas and dust to collide. Atoms caught in these colliding shocks radiate light shown in the above representative-light picture.

Tomorrow's picture: The Colorful Moon

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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&: Michigan Tech. U.