The Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its special symmetries can be seen in the central part of this image in false color, processed to reveal the huge and extensive halo of gaseous material, more than 3 light years away, that surrounds the bright and familiar planetary nebula.
Made with data from the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands, the image composition shows the emission of nitrogen atoms as red, and those of oxygen such as green and blue shadows.
Planetary nebulae are clearly visible in the final stages in the life of a star similar to our Sun. However, only very recently, some planetariums have encountered halos like this, normally formed from material expelled in the first episodes of activity in The evolution of the star.
While the planetary nebula phase is believed to last about 10,000 years, astronomers estimate that the age of the outer filaments that form the halo can last from 50,000 to 90,000 years.
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