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A star's death was once thought to be a simple affair. The star cast off a shell of glowing gas and lived the remainder of its time as a white dwarf. This collection of images, however, is forcing researchers to rethink their theories of how Sun-like stars die. In particular, they believe the stars' intricate patterns, which resemble everything from lawn sprinklers to goblets, may be woven by a star's interaction with unseen companions, including planets, brown dwarfs or smaller stars. The question researchers now ask is how do so-called planetary nebulae (a name that was given them long before astronomers knew that these objects were actually dying stars) shape themselves. Hubble's ability to detect intricate details is giving researchers plenty to digest. From this collection, they found unexplained disks and "donuts" of dust girdling a star, strange glowing "red blobs" placed along the edge of some nebulae and jets of high-speed particles. Researchers say that these images give us a preview of our own Sun's fate some 5 billion years from now.


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