Universe

Spirograph nebula Nebulae in the Milky Way

Spirograph nebula Nebulae in the Milky Way

What is being created in this strange texture of IC 418? Baptized as a Spirograph Nebula because of its resemblance to the drawings of that cyclic drawing tool, the planetary nebula IC 418 shows some patterns that we don't understand well. They may have to do with the chaotic winds of the central variable star, which changes brightness unpredictably in just a few hours.

On the contrary, evidence indicates that only a few million years ago IC 418 was probably a common star, similar to the Sun. A few thousand years ago, IC 418 must have been a normal red giant star. But when the nuclear fuel ran out, its outer envelope began to expand outward, leaving a hot residual core that was to become the white dwarf that can be seen in the center of the photo. The light of the central nucleus excites the atoms of the nebula, causing them to glow.

The IC 418 nebula is about 2000 light years away, and measures 0.3 light years. This false color image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals unusual details.

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