NGC 5189 nebula

Photo: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

'Tis the season for gorgeous space photography

The bright gas formations of the planetary nebula NGC 5189, located 3,000 light years away in the Musca constellation, resembles a festive bauble wrapped with ribbon in this image captured by astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

A planetary nebula is created as a star in its final stages of life consumes the last of the fuel in its core, causing its outer envelope to break down and expel outward. Radiation causes the expelled material to heat up and produce radiating clouds of gas that glow in complex structures.

The image above represents the future of our own sun, which is similar in size to the star that is shown breaking down.

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