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Planetary Nebula's Icy Blue Wings Captured With Hubble

First Posted: Feb 15, 2016 04:14 PM EST

NASA/ESA's Hubble Spacecraft has captured an image of the remarkable and symmetrical wings of Hen 2-437, a planetary nebula, which resides in the Milky Way. Hen 2-437's icy blue wings are quite vivid in the image.

Hen 2-437 is located in the faint northern constellation of Vulpecula (The Fox) and is one out of 3,000 similar objects found in the Milky Way. Hen 2-437 was first discovered by Rudolph Minkowski in 1946, who also found the famous M2-9, which is known as the Twin Jet Nebula. Two decades later, Karl Gordon Henize, a NASA astronaut and astronomer categorized Hen 2-437 as a type of planetary nebula.

Planetary nebulae like Hen 2-437are formed when old, low-mass stars (like the sun for instance) reach the last stages of their life. These stars eventually swell and become red giants before casting off their gaseous outer layers into space. The star gradually shrinks and become a white dwarf and its expelled gas is slowly compressed and pushed outwards by stellar winds. Hen 2-437 is a bipolar nebula and its material released by the dying has spilled out into space, creating two icy blue wings as seen in the image. 

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