Planetary nebula NGC 5189 as seen by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
It may be just a tad too big to hang on your tree but this bright, twisted planetary nebula would make a beautiful holiday ornament… if scaled a bit down to size, of course.
NGC 5189 is a planetary nebula that lies 1,800 light-years away in the southern constellation Musca. The gorgeous image above, acquired by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on October 8, 2012, shows the glowing streamers of oxygen, sulfur and hydrogen that are being blown far into space from the hot star star at its heart — HD 117622 (at right.)
The expelled gas forms a double structure, with a series of central blue lobes surrounded by a twisted helix of bright streamers, called radial filaments. These filaments are the result of fast-moving material from the star impacting previously expelled, slower-moving gas, which becomes visible due to ionizing radiation.