Hourglass. Nebulae of our galaxy

Hourglass. Nebulae of our galaxy

MyCn18 or Hourglass Nebula. It is 8,000 light years away. Before obtaining this photograph, MyCn18 was formed by two large and one smaller ring, with a look very similar to that of the 1987A supernova. The different components of this hourglass-shaped structure are not aligned. By force, this decentralization, which has also been observed in the nucleus of some galaxies, around what could be a black hole, must have some explanation, unknown at the moment.

The central star of this planetary nebula shaped like an hourglass is dying. With its spent nuclear fuel, this brief and spectacular final phase in the life of a Sun-like star occurs when its outer layers are expelled. Its core becomes a cold and fading white dwarf.

In 1995, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to take a series of images of planetary nebulae, including this one. The unprecedented sharpness of the Hubble images reveals details of the process of expulsion from the nebula and can help solve the mystery about the variety of complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulae.

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