Dying Star

Photograph courtesy NASA/ESA/Hans Van Winckel (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)/Martin Cohen (University of California, Berkeley)

Ground-based telescopes make the nebula pictured here look rectangular in shape, hence its name: the Red Rectangle. But images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it should more accurately be called the "Red X" nebula. The nebula's unique shape comes from gas and dust emitted in cone-shaped bursts from the dying star at its center. This star, which began shedding its outer layers about 14,000 years ago, will slowly become smaller and hotter and begin to release a flood of ultraviolet light.