News Release Archive:

News Release 118 of 164

August 24, 1999 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1999-32

Symbiotic Star Blows Bubbles into Space

August 24, 1999: A tempestuous relationship between an unlikely pair of stars may have created an oddly shaped gaseous nebula that resembles nesting hourglasses.

Images taken with Earth-based telescopes have shown the larger, hourglass-shaped nebula. But this picture, taken with the Hubble telescope, reveals a small, bright nebula embedded in the center of the larger one [close-up of nebula in inset]. Astronomers have dubbed the entire nebula the "Southern Crab Nebula" (He2-104), because, from ground-based telescopes, it looks like the body and legs of a crab. The nebula is several light-years long. The possible creators of these shapes cannot be seen in this visible-light picture. It's a pair of aging stars buried in the glow of the tiny, central nebula. One of them is a red giant, a bloated star that is exhausting its nuclear fuel and is shedding its outer layers in a powerful stellar wind. Its companion is a hot, white dwarf, a stellar zombie of a burned-out star.

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Credits: Romano Corradi, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Tenerife, Spain; Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.; Ulisse Munari, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova-Asiago, Italy; Hugo Schwarz, Nordic Optical Telescope, Canarias, Spain; and NASA