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Section 5

Glowing wisps of outpouring gas, lit up by a central star nearing the end of its life, looks like a colorful holiday ornament in space.

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This image, captured by our Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble), shows the vivid blue and red hues of a planetary nebula that is located about 11,000 light-years from Earth. When a star ages and the red giant phase of its life comes to an end, it starts to eject layers of gas from its surface leaving behind a hot and compact white dwarf. Sometimes this ejection results in elegantly symmetric patterns of glowing gas, but this planetary nebula is much less structured. Planetary nebulae are one of the main ways in which elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are dispersed into space after their creation in the hearts of stars. Eventually some of this out-flung material may form new stars and planets. In this iamge, the vivid blue and red hues come from material including ionized oxygen and hydrogen glowing under the action of the fierce ultraviolet radiation from the still hot central star. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
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