Thursday, September 26, 2013

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 09/26/13 - Little Ghost Nebula

In the spirit of the green trees and shrubbery slowly fading to the lovely colors of orange and red to signifies the coming of Halloween (at least here in the United States), no other nebulae is more appropriate than the Little Ghost Nebula.

With wispy tendrils of interstellar gas and dust clouds, the little ghost nebula (formally known as NGC 6369) is truly a haunting sight. It's located approximately 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Ophiuchus and is considered to be a planetary nebula since it looks almost spherical like a planet when viewed through a telescope.

Radiating from the center is a faint star that's ending the near of its life-span, causing it to eject massive amounts of its outer envelope of gases into interstellar space through stellar winds. When all is said and done, all that remains of this sun-like star will be a dense core called a white-dwarf. The white-dwarf is emitting large amounts of ultraviolet light into the surrounding gas clouds, stripping electrons from atoms leaving behind ions in a process called ionization. The more faint of the "wisps" were created from the gas the star shed during the start of the ejection process since the ionization process is less advanced the farther the distance from the star is.

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