Posts Tagged ‘IRAS 20068+4051’

Dusty Butterfly

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Dusty wings, resembling a butterfly, unfold around a star late in its life in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the short-lived event, known as a protoplanetary nebula, around IRAS 20068+4051. What shapes and stories can you tell about this image? Leave a comment below.

The wings spreading from this star are just the first gasps of a dying star. When a star with a size sim­i­lar to our Sun burns through all of its hydro­gen fuel, the star begins to shed its outer lay­ers and puffs them out into space as giant bub­bles. High velocity interstellar winds push and mold the gas and dust released by the star. Radi­a­tion from the now dead stars white, hot core, called a white dwarf, heats the expand­ing shells of gas caus­ing the mate­r­ial to glow. Even­tu­ally, the neb­ula will fade as the mate­r­ial cools and expands into space. The white dwarf will cool and fade slowly from view over the next sev­eral bil­lion years. Our Sun will meet a sim­i­lar fate but not for another five bil­lion years or so.

Protoplanetary nebula, or a pre-planetary nebula, give astronomers a glimpse at the beginnings of the dying process. While astronomers call them plan­e­tary neb­u­lae, they have noth­ing to do with plan­ets. Planet hunters in the 17th and 18th cen­turies cat­a­loged many objects that had an orb-like appear­ance in tele­scopes; much like a planet. IRAS 20068+4051 is located toward the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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