News Release Archive:

News Release 24 of 50

February 1, 2001 01:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2001-05

Astro-Entomology? Ant-like Space Structure Previews Death of Our Sun

A Hubble Heritage Release

February 1, 2001: From ground-based telescopes, this cosmic object -- the glowing remains of a dying, Sun-like star -- resembles the head and thorax of a garden-variety ant. But this dramatic Hubble telescope image of the so-called "ant nebula" (Menzel 3, or Mz 3) shows even more detail, revealing the "ant's" body as a pair of fiery lobes protruding from the dying star.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. What can astronomers learn from this picture?

  2. The Hubble picture directly challenges old ideas about the last stages in the lives of stars. By observing Sun-like stars as they approach their deaths, the Hubble Heritage image of Mz 3 — along with pictures of other planetary nebulae — shows that our Sun's fate probably will be more interesting, complex, and striking than astronomers imagined just a few years ago.

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Acknowledgment: R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Lab) and B. Balick (University of Washington)