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News Release Archive:

News Release 694 of 954

December 17, 1997 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-1997-38

Hubble Witnesses the Final Blaze of Glory of Sun-Like Stars

A Space Science Update Release

December 17, 1997: The end of a Sun-like star's life was once thought to be simple: the star gracefully casts off a shell of glowing gas and then settles into a long retirement as a burned-out white dwarf.

Now, a dazzling collection of detailed views from the Hubble telescope reveals surprisingly intricate, glowing patterns spun into space by aging stars: pinwheels, lawn sprinkler-style jets, elegant goblet shapes, and even some that look like a rocket engine's exhaust. In this picture of M2-9, twin lobes of material emanate from a central, dying star. Astronomers have dubbed this object the "Twin Jet Nebula" because of the shape of the lobes. If the nebula is sliced across the star, each side appears much like a pair of exhausts from jet engines. Indeed, because of the nebula's shape and the measured velocity of the gas, in excess of 200 miles per second, astronomers believe that the description as a super-super-sonic jet exhaust is quite apt.

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Credit: Bruce Balick (University of Washington), Vincent Icke (Leiden University, The Netherlands), Garrelt Mellema (Stockholm University), and NASA