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Say hello to the Butterfly Nebula It looks like our Hubble Space Telescope captured an…

Say hello to the Butterfly Nebula It looks like our Hubble Space Telescope captured an…

Say hello to the Butterfly Nebula 👋

It looks like our Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of a peaceful, cosmic butterfly unfurling its celestial wings, but the truth is vastly more violent. In the Butterfly Nebula, layers of gas are being ejected from a dying star. Medium-mass stars grow unstable as they run out of fuel, which leads them to blast tons of material out into space at speeds of over a million miles per hour!

Streams of intense ultraviolet radiation cause the cast-off material to glow, but eventually the nebula will fade and leave behind only a small stellar corpse called a white dwarf. Our middle-aged Sun can expect a similar fate once it runs out of fuel in about six billion years.

Planetary nebulas like this one aren’t actually related to planets; the term was coined by astronomer William Herschel, who actually discovered the Butterfly Nebula in 1826. Through his small telescope, planetary nebulas looked like glowing, planet-like orbs. While stars that generate planetary nebulas may have once had planets orbiting them, scientists expect that the fiery death throes these stars undergo will ultimately leave any planets in their vicinity completely uninhabitable.

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