The Colorful Demise of a Sun-like Star
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows planetary nebula NGC 2440 with a star very similar to our Sun reaching the end of its life. The star is casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the center. The white dwarf is one of the hottest known, with a surface temperature of nearly 400,000 degrees Fahrenheit (200,000 degrees Celsius).
The nebula’s chaotic structure suggests that the star shed its mass episodically. During each outburst, the star expelled material in a different direction. This can be seen in the two bow tie-shaped lobes. Our Sun will eventually burn out and shroud itself with stellar debris as well, but luckily not for another 5 billion years.
(Credit: NASA, ESA, and K. Noll (STScI)