News sources report that a pair of NASA space telescopes have captured a spectacular new photo of the Helix Nebula, a glowing celestial vision that resembles a giant cosmic eye.
The new picture, released Wednesday (Oct. 3), combines data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which observes in long-wavelength infrared light, and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), which picked out the short-wavelength ultraviolet light coming from the object.
The Helix Nebula is located about 650 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. It provides a sneak peak at the future of our own sun, which is expected to turn into a planetary nebula in about 5 billion years.
Planetary nebulas are stars around the size of the sun that have neared the ends of their lives and run out of hydrogen and helium fuel for fusion in their cores. At this point, they puff out their outer gaseous layers into glowing shells around them, and condense into small white dwarf stars.