Helix nebula, infrared Spitzer image
Helix nebula (NGC 7293), infrared Spitzer Space Telescope image. This is a planetary nebula, a series of shells of gas cast off by a dying star. The ejection of the star's outer layers exposes its hot core, whose radiation ionises the shells, causing them to glow. This image was taken at wavelengths of varying energy: high (blue), medium (green) and low (red). The gas in the central regions has been ionised more than the outer gas, which is shielded from the stellar core. The most highly ionised areas (cometary heads) are round the edge of the central void. Foreground and background stars are blue. The Helix nebula is 650 light years from Earth, in the constellation of Aquarius. Image data obtained by the IRAC sensor in October 2004
© NASA/JPL-CALTECH/J. HORA (HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CfA)/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Artists concept showing carbon balls ejecting out from a dying white star in a planetary
Artist's concept showing carbon balls coming out from the type of object where they were discovered, a dying star and the material it sheds, known as a planetary nebula. The official name of these carbon balls is a buckminsterfullerene, and often referred to as buckyballs. Buckyballs are made up of 60 carbon atoms organized into spherical structures that resemble soccer balls.
The Spitzer Space Telescope was able to find convincing signs of buckyballs using its sensitive infrared vision. The telescope found the molecules, as well as their elongated, rugby-ball-like relatives, called C70, in the material around a dying star, or planetary nebula, called Tc 1. The star at the center of Tc 1 was once similar to our sun but as it aged, it sloughed off its outer layers, leaving only a dense white dwarf star. Astronomers believe buckyballs were created in shed layers of carbon that blew off the star.
Tc 1 does not show up that well in images, so a picture of the NGC 2440 nebula was used in this artist's conception
© Stocktrek Images
This composite image is a view of the colorful Helix Nebula taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mosaic II Camera on the 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The object is so large that both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view. The Helix is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope expelled by a dying, sun-like star. The Helix resembles a simple doughnut as seen from Earth. But looks can be deceiving. New evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two gaseous disks nearly perpendicular to each other
© Stocktrek Images