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July 4, 1996
The Cat's Eye Nebula (Revisited)
Credit: J.P. Harrington and K.J. Borkowski (U. Maryland), HST, NASA
Explanation: Three thousand light years away, a dying star throws off shells of glowing gas. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals "The Cat's Eye Nebula" to be one of the most complex planetary nebulae known. In fact, the features seen in this image are so complex that astronomers suspect the bright central object may actually be a binary star system. The term planetary nebula, used to describe this general class of objects, is misleading. Although these objects may appear round and planet-like in small telescopes, high resolution images reveal them to be stars surrounded by cocoons of gas blown off in the late stages of stellar evolution.
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC