This planetary nebula, Mz3, is being cast off by a star similar to our Sun. The 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the light-year long length of the structure, and the magnetism of the star visible at the nebula's center, all imply Mz3 is hiding a second, dimmer star that orbits close in to the bright star. A competing hypothesis holds that the central star's own spin and magnetic field are channeling the gas. (ESA, NASA's Hubble, JPL-CalTech)
The Butterfly Nebula - NGC 6302 (also called the Bug Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, or Caldwell 69) is a bipolar planetary nebula in the constellation Scorpius. The structure in the nebula is among the most complex ever observed in planetary nebulae. The spectrum of NGC 6302 shows that its central star is one of the hottest stars in the galaxy, with a surface temperature in excess of 200,000 K, implying that the star from which it formed must have been very large.
The gorgeous, gaseous shroud of a dying sunlike star, planetary nebula Abell 36 lies a mere 800 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. At that distance it spans over 1.5 light-years in this sharp telescopic view. Shrugging off its outer layers, the nebula's central star is contracting and becoming hotter, evolving towards a final white dwarf phase.
NGC 6543 Halo of the Cat's Eye. The Cat's Eye Nebula is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its symmetries are seen in the very central region of this false-color picture, pro-cessed to reveal the enormous but extremely faint halo of gaseous mater-ial, over 3 ly across, which surrounds the brighter, familiar planetary nebula. Made with data from the Nordic Optical Telescope, Canary Islands.
The Red Spider Planetary Nebula -- "Oh what a tangled web a planetary nebula can weave. The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star ejects its outer gases and becomes a white dwarf star."
The hazy and aptly named Fine Ring Nebula, shown here, is an unusual planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae form when some dying stars, having expanded into a red giant phase, expel a shell of gas as they evolve into white dwarfs. Most planetary nebulae are either spherical or elliptical in shape, or bipolar (featuring two symmetric lobes of material).