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News Release 7 of 30

November 7, 2002 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2002-25

An Old Star Gives Up the Ghost

A Hubble Heritage Release

November 7, 2002: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of a colorful cosmic ghost, the glowing remains of a dying star called NGC 6369. The glowing apparition is known to amateur astronomers as the "Little Ghost Nebula," because it appears as a small, ghostly cloud surrounding the faint, dying central star.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. What does the image show?

  2. The photograph reveals remarkable details of the star's last gasps, when it expels its outer layers into space, producing a faintly glowing nebula. Many of the details of ejection process are not visible from ground-based telescopes because of the blurring produced by the Earth's atmosphere.

    The remnant stellar core in the center is now sending out a flood of ultraviolet light into the surrounding gas. The prominent blue-green ring, nearly a light-year in diameter, marks the location where the energetic ultraviolet light has stripped electrons off of atoms in the gas. This process is called ionization. In the redder gas at larger distances from the star, where the ultraviolet light is less intense, the ionization process is less advanced. Even farther outside the main body of the nebula, one can see fainter wisps of gas that were lost from the star at the beginning of the ejection process.

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Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)