(Photo : NASA)
According to NASA, the image above shows for planetary nebulas, courtesy of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope.
The four planetary nebulas are from the first systematic survey of such objects in the solar neighborhood. The nebulas have been labeled as NGC 6543 or Cat's Eye, NGC 7662, NGC 7009, and NGC 6826.
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A planetary nebula is a phase of "stellar evolution" that the Sun will be experiencing several billion years from now, says NASA.
For the survey, Chandra observed 21 planetary nebulas, about 5,000 light-years from Earth.
NASA noted, "In each case, X-ray emission from Chandra is colored purple and optical emission from the Hubble Space Telescope is colored red, green and blue."
"When a star like the Sun uses up all of the hydrogen in its core, it expands into a red giant, with a radius that increases by tens to hundreds of times," said NASA in a statement. "In this phase, a star sheds most of its outer layers, eventually leaving behind a hot core that will soon contract to form a dense white dwarf star. A fast wind emanating from the hot core rams into the ejected atmosphere, pushes it outward, and creates the graceful, shell-like filamentary structures seen with optical telescopes."
The researchers are hoping to use Chandra to detect the plasma inside the stellar winds.
More research will be conducted to determine the structure and evolution of the nebulas.
The observation was published in The Astronomical Journal, and can be found here.