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Cat’s Eye Nebula

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Here’s another eyeful, the Cat’s Eye Nebula, photographed from the Nordic Optical Telescope (which is, please note, located in the Canary Islands).

The CEN (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula, which means it is a ring of gases that is being ionized by a nearby star, in this case the remnants of a red giant (or possibly a binary star system) that died in an extremely complex process. What is certain is that the CEN has the most intricate halo of gases ever observed in a planetary nebula.

Here is RT’s effort at reconstructing the star’s death: the original star expanded into a red giant, sending out long trails of its outer material into space, where they encountered interstellar gas and dust that broke the trails up into spectacular streamers and knots of gas. Then the star began a series of explosions, ejecting more material to form a set of shells surrounding the star. These events took place 1,500-1,000 years ago; the CEN is located 3,000 light-years from earth.

What a masterpiece of stellar art!   RT

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Photograph: The Cat’s Eye Nebula (photographed 9 September 2004); author: Nordic Optical Telescope and Romano Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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