TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope discovered images of the Ring Nebula, the best-known example of a planetary nebula.
The Ring Nebula displays the final stages of a dying star, including the filament structure of the inner ring.
The inner region shows the hot gas, with the main shell containing a thing ring of enhanced emission from carbon-based molecules.
A few thousand years ago, the star was a red giant, shedding most of its mass.
Now, the hot core ionizes, and expels gas, and the nebula responds with colorful emission of light.
The Ring Nebula is approximately 2,200 light-years away. It is visible with binoculars from the northern hemisphere and much of the southern.
“When we first saw the images, we were stunned by the amount of detail in them,” NASA wrote.
The bright ring is composed of 20,000 individual clumps of molecular hydrogen gas, each the size of Earth.
On the outside of the ring. “spikes” point directly away from the central star, which is thought to be due to molecules that can form in the shadows of the densest parts of the ring where they’re shielded from direct and intense radiation from he hot central star.