Medusa Nebula looks way prettier than its namesake

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Medusa Nebula Looks Way Prettier Than Its Namesake

The passage of a star ...

You are looking at the Medusa Nebula ... a colorful cloudburst in deep space made up of particles and fragments from its dying star.

Named after the mythological creature known for her frightening wave of snakes for hair, the planetary nebula's reptilian mane is actually a mixture of gaseous filaments ... largely hydrogen and oxygen.

This was captured by the very large telescope at the European Southern Observatory in northern Chile.

At the core of the nebula lies a star that at one time looked very much like our sun, but after eons began to slowly burn out, shedding its layers into space -- revealing what scientists believe will be the fate of our own sun, but thankfully not for another few billion years.

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Medusa Nebula looks way prettier than its namesake
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Medusa Nebula looks way prettier than its namesake
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)
(Photo by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey)

Braided, serpentine filaments of glowing gas suggest this nebula's popular name, The Medusa Nebula. Also known as Abell 21, this Medusa is an old planetary nebula some 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Gemini. Like its mythological namesake, the nebula is associated with a dramatic transformation. The planetary nebula phase represents a final stage in the evolution of low mass stars like the sun, as they transform themselves from red giants to hot white dwarf stars and in the process shrug off their outer layers. Ultraviolet radiation from the hot star powers the nebular glow. The Medusa's transforming hot central star is visible in the detailed color image as the small blue star within the upper half of the overall bright crescent shape. Fainter filaments clearly extend above and to the left of the bright crescent region. The Medusa Nebula is estimated to be over 4 light-years across.

(Photo by Don Goldman via NASA)

(Photo by Bob Franke/Focal Pointe Observatory via NASA)

(Photo by Ken Crawford/Rancho Del Sol Obs. via NASA)
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