Exploding Eskimos

This weeks OOTW features Rick Nowell’s OOTD posted on the 10th of September 2010.

On January 17th 1787, William Herschel was observing in the constellation Gemini, the result of which led to this beautiful object being discovered:

NGC 2392

NGC 2392; credit: NASA, ESA, Andrew Fruchter (STScI), and the ERO team (STScI + ST-ECF)

This lovely object is NGC 239 and it lies around 2,870 light years away from Earth. It’s a Planetary Nebula, though they don’t actually have anything to do with planets. They come in all different shapes and sizes, from perfect spheres to the intricate one above, which is nicknamed rather appropriately as the Eskimo Nebula 😀

In the middle of all these Planetary Nebulae are the culprits; a core of a low mass star below 9 solar masses. The star at the centre of the Eskimo nebula, at the end of its life when it had became a red giant, threw off all its layers until only its core was left, going from a star much like our sun to a tiny white dwarf. The patterns of ionized gas you can see in the image are around a light year across! This object will remain visible in our skies for a few thousand or so years until it fades away, its gas spreading out into the interstellar medium and contributing to the formation of new stars.


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One response to “Exploding Eskimos”

  1. Peter says :

    Yet another lovely post Hannah 🙂

    And a great OOTD to begin with 😀

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