Hubble watches another star’s death

Another day, another spectacular image of a planetary nebula . . . This time it is Hubble which has come up with the goods and photographed a star’s demise.

The nebula, which has no fancy name, is catalogued by astronomers as NGC 2440 and lies in the southern constellation of Puppis.

Hubble image of NGC 2440At the centre of the bow-tie-shaped cocoon of gas lies the original burned-out star, now a white dwarf.

The photo was taken on February 6 with the space telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. NGC 2440 lies around 4,000 light-years from Earth, about five times as far as the Helix nebula that Spitzer recently imaged.

Our Milky Way galaxy is littered with these stellar relics. They were termed planetary nebulae because astronomers in the 18th and 19th centuries thought they resembled the disks of Uranus and Neptune through small telescopes.

Photo: NASA, ESA, and K. Noll (STScI)

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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