Who needs aliens and imagined cities on the moon when you have a reality that produces such strange and beautiful things as the image on the right?
On July 2, the Hubble Space Telescope took this image of a planetary nebula, aptly dubbed the Necklace Nebula. As the caption explains,
A pair of stars orbiting close together produced the nebula, also called PN G054.2-03.4. About 10,000 years ago one of the aging stars ballooned to the point where it engulfed its companion star. The smaller star continued orbiting inside its larger companion, increasing the giant’s rotation rate.
The bloated companion star spun so fast that a large part of its gaseous envelope expanded into space. Due to centrifugal force, most of the gas escaped along the star’s equator, producing a ring. The embedded bright knots are dense gas clumps in the ring.
The binary still exists, and can be seen as the star in the center of the necklace. The two stars are now only a few million miles apart and complete an orbit around each other in about a day.
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