Image of the Day: Comet-Like Heads of a Doomed Star — Each Twice the Size of Our Solar System


Helix knots close up The Hubble Space Telescope captured thousands of spellbinding gaseous knots from a doomed star in the Helix nebula, the closest planetary nebula to Earth at 450 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. Each gaseous head is at least twice the size of our solar system; each tail stretches 100 billion miles, about 1,000 times the Earth's distance to the Sun. The most visible gaseous fragments lie along the inner edge of the star's ring, trillions of miles from the star at its center.

The comet-like tails form a radial pattern around the star like the spokes on a wagon wheel. Astronomers theorize that the gaseous knots are the hot gas from its surface, which collides with the cooler gas that it had ejected 10,000 years before. Astronomers expect the gaseous knots, each several billion miles across, to eventually dissipate into the cold blackness of interstellar space

Image Credit: Robert O'Dell, Kerry P. Handron (Rice University, Houston, Texas) and NASA

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