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Explanation: Are stars better appreciated for their art after they die? Actually, stars usually create their most artistic displays as they die. In the case of low-mass stars like our Sun and M2-9 pictured above, the stars transform themselves from normal stars to white dwarfs by casting off their outer gaseous envelopes. The expended gas frequently forms an impressive display called a planetary nebula that fades gradually over thousand of years. M2-9, a butterfly planetary nebula 2100 light-years away shown in representative colors, has wings that tell a strange but incomplete tale. In the center, two stars orbit inside a gaseous disk 10 times the orbit of Pluto. The expelled envelope of the dying star breaks out from the disk creating the bipolar appearance. Much remains unknown about the physical processes that causeplanetary nebulae.
The Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31
The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy and it the closest large galaxy to the milky way (this is not including dwarf galaxies). It is approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda and is listed as the 31st object in Messier’s catalog of large night-sky objects.
Andromeda is one of the easiest objects to spot in the night sky. It can be seen on a clear night with the unaided eye as a faint smudge of light about 3 times the apparent length of the moon. This makes the Galaxy a great viewing/imaging target if you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
Like our milky way galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy has smaller satellite galaxy, known as dwarf galaxies, that orbit it. One of these dwarf galaxies can be seen in the above images as a small smudge below Andromeda’s galactic disk.
The top image shows a wide field view of the Andromeda Galaxy. The next two images show wide field views of the galaxy in infrared and ultraviolet light and the last two are infrared and ultraviolet images taken recently by the Spitzer space telescope.
This remarkable picture from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows one of the most perfect geometrical forms created in space. It captures the formation of an unusual pre-planetary nebula, known as IRAS 23166+1655, around the star LL Pegasi (also known as AFGL 3068) in the constellation of Pegasus (the Winged Horse).