As nuclear fusion engines, most stars live placid lives for hundreds of millions to billions of years. But near the end of their lives they can turn into crazy whirligigs, puffing off shells and jets of hot gas.
Recently, a very young and dense planetary nebula (NGC 7027) located around 3,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus was identified in a new wavelength of light — near-ultraviolet, resembles a jewel bug, an insect with a brilliantly colorful metallic shell.
The near-ultraviolet observations will help reveal how much dust obscures the star and how hot the star really is.
This object is a visibly diffuse region of gas and dust that may be the result of ejections by closely orbiting binary stars that were first slowly sloughing off material over thousands of years, and then entered a phase of more violent and highly directed mass ejections.
Planetary nebulas are expanding shells of gas created by dying stars that are shedding their outer layers.
When new ejections encounter older ejections, the resulting energetic collisions shape the nebula. The mechanisms underlying such sequences of stellar mass expulsion are far from fully understood, but researchers theorize that binary companions to the central, dying stars play essential roles in shaping them.