As anyone with astronomy probably already knows, NASA likes to share incredible photos of our universe. Recently, NASA shared a stunning photo of a nebula known as the “Chain Nebula,”
The nebula – which also bears the less glamorous name PN G054.203.4 – is located about 15,000 light-years from Earth near the constellation Sagitta. What we now think of as the nebula was once a pair of orbiting stars similar to our sun. About 10,000 years ago, the larger star expanded and consumed the smaller one, a process scientists call a “common envelope.”
The smaller star continued to spin while inside its larger companion, increasing their shared rotational speed, causing bits from both to spin outward. This ring of debris resembles the chain, and the extra dense gas groups formed what look like large diamonds around the nebula’s ring.
The two stars are still spinning; they are the little white dot in the center of the ring. The stars can orbit each other in just over 24 hours. Hubble released a photo of the same nebula nearly a decade ago, but the new image is much better because NASA used different exposures from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and advanced processing techniques to improve it.