The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured rare images of a dying star that beamed colorful lights as it struggled in its final moments.
The sun-like star was spotted emitting dazzling rays of colors while peeling off outer layers of gas columns. It was twined to the gas layers as if in a cocoon around the core. The white dot in the center is the burned out star, which is also called a white dwarf.
Stellar relics like this are called planetary nebulae and are strewn across the Milky Way Galaxy. They are not planets, though the name would be confusing. The planetary nebula in the image is called NGC 2440, and it is 4,000 light-years away from Earth. At the center of this dying star, the estimated temperature is more than 360,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Hubble Telescope images showed that the mass was spewed out in different directions. The bright glow of the dying star comes from the ultraviolet light rays that light up the gas rings.
A similar dying star, planetary nebula NGC 6565, was also reported in August. It had the same pattern — low-mass stars exploding into a planetary nebula and pushing out the outer envelope carrying gases. As it stretched forward, a dazzling show of colors played out.
The play of cosmic light goes on for years until such time when the gorgeous gases shrink into the cooling star to the center of the nebula. Finally, there appears a modest white dwarf star.
Replica Of Sun's End
Meanwhile, an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) has given a hint of how the sun will meet its end. The whole process of light play was illustrated by an image released by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The photo showed the image of Kohoutek 4-55, a planetary nebula located 4,600 light-years away from Earth.
Showing a star on the throes of death at the center of the colorful web of gas, experts say the image is suggestive of the changes faced by ageing stars, including ebbing shine, as energy creation dips from the irregular crashing of outer layers.
As rings of outer gases start falling, massive ultraviolet light radiation exposure takes place. The radiation helps the gas shells glow and contributes to the beauty of the nebula.
The released photo was a composite of three images taken at different intervals. Showing specific wavelengths, the image had nitrogen representing red wavelength, oxygen blue and hydrogen green.
Scientists believe that the sun, too, will have a colorful end, stripping off the outer layers and revealing the burning core. It will gradually cool, with the ember turning into a white dwarf.
"By that time, Earth will be long gone, burnt to a crisp as the Sun dies," ESA noted, adding that despite this, the sun's end will make an impact as it will shine across the universe.