By European Space Agency (ESA)
August 30, 2019
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 5307, a planetary nebula that lies about 10,000 light-years from Earth. It can be seen in the constellation Centaurus (the Centaur), which can be seen primarily in the southern hemisphere. A planetary nebula is the final stage of a Sun-like star. As such, planetary nebulas allow us a glimpse into the future of our own solar system. A star like our Sun will, at the end of its life, transform into a red giant. Stars are sustained by the nuclear fusion that occurs in their core, which creates energy. The nuclear fusion processes constantly try to rip the star apart. Only the gravity of the star prevents this from happening.
At the end of the red giant phase of a star, these forces become unbalanced. Without enough energy created by fusion, the core of the star collapses in on itself, while the surface layers are ejected outward. After that, all that remains of the star is…
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