Universe

The Little Ghost Nebulae of our galaxy

The Little Ghost Nebulae of our galaxy

The Hubble Space Telescope has obtained images of the planetary nebula NGC 6369, also known as the Little Ghost Nebula due to the spectral appearance of the small cloud that surrounds the weak and dying central star. NGC 6369 is located at a distance between 2,000 and 5,000 light years from Earth.

When a star of mass similar to that of the Sun approaches the end of its days, it expands notably: a red giant is born. This stage of red giant ends when the star expels its outer layers into space causing a faint glowing nebula. Astronomers called planetary nebula in principle these types of objects because of its shape reminded of a planet, as seen through a small telescope. The remaining star nucleus floods the surrounding gas with ultraviolet light.

Our Sun can expel a similar nebula, but not before 5,000 million years. The gas will expand from the star, and dissipate through interstellar space after about 10,000 years. After this, the embers of the Sun will cool gradually over billions of years until it becomes a tiny white dwarf.

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