The Beautiful Dying Star
"Garden-variety stars like our Sun live undistinguished
lives in their galactic neighborhoods, churning
out heat and light for billions of years. When these
stars reach retirement age, however, they become
unique and colorful works of art. As ordinary, sun-like
stars begin their 30,000-year journey into their
twilight years, they swell and glow, shrugging off
their gaseous layers until only their small, hot
The ejected gaseous layers are called planetary
nebulae, so named in the 18th century because, through
small telescopes, these gas clouds had round shapes
similar to distant planets such as Uranus or Neptune.
The gaseous debris glows like a fluorescent design,
producing objects with striking shapes and names
like "The Ring Nebula" and "The Spirograph Nebula."
Astronomers have recorded more than 1,000 of them
in our galaxy."
Glorious End Of Stellar Life", STScI Astrofile
Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger's (JPL) Planetary
Arsen Hajian and Yervant Terzian's (USNO) Planetary
Bruce Balicks's (U. Washington) Planetary
Robin Ciardullo's (Penn State) Planetary