When an ageing star runs out of hydrogen to fuel a chain nuclear reaction, the star will become unstable, collapse and then drastically grow in size. These so-called red giants are the result of gravity overcoming the force of nuclear fusion, which causes the star’s core to become hotter and denser. Scientists believe our Sun will suffer the same fate in the far future when it swells in size to scorch the planets Mercury, Venus and Earth. In a photo shared by NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a glowing orb of gas created by an expanding red giant star.
The object in question is a so-called planetary nebula in the constellation Orion.
Dubbed NGC 2022, a planetary nebula is a ring-shaped cloud of stellar gas surrounding an ageing star.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which operates Hubble with NASA, said: “Although it looks more like an entity seen through a microscope than a telescope, this rounded object, named NGC 2022, is certainly not algae or tiny, blobby jellyfish.
“Instead, it is a vast orb of gas in space, cast by an ageing star.”
NASA news: This planetary nebula was created by an expanding red giant star (Image: NASA/ESA)
NASA news: A star’s size determines the different stages it goes through (Image: NASA/CHANDRA)
The star is visible in the dead centre of the ring of gas and shines with an intense red-orange hue.
It is a vast orb of gas in space, cast by an ageing star
European Space Agency (ESA)
As stars get older, their glow will shift towards the red end of the visible spectrum.
The colour of a star is predetermined by its temperatures and ranges from blue to red.
Younger, hotter stars, tend to glow a bright blue glow.
Older and cooler stars will shift towards the red end the spectrum – a sign they have entered the last stages of their lifecycle.
Our Sun, which appears to glow yellow, burns at the surface at around 9,932F degrees or 5,