Stars like our Sun end their lives by casting off their outer layers, briefly forming a spectacular "planetary nebula" like the Helix Nebula. In visible light, we see the glow of hot gases illuminated by a hot, compact core, known as a "white dwarf." Shifting into the near-infrared reveals the glow of more complex molecules formed in the outer shell. The mid-infrared glow highlights the warm (bright red) dust surrounding the white dwarf.
Optical: Hot gas ejected from a dying star glows.
Near-Infrared: Near-infrared light reveals cooler material.
Mid-far-Infrared: Warm dust is identified in mid-infrared light.
Infrared-Ultraviolet: The ultraviolet light traces the hot gas being expelled from the dying star.
Optical: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO); Near-infrared: ESO, VISTA, J. Emerson. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit; Mid-far-infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech, K. Su (Univ. of Arizona); Ultraviolet: NASANASA, JPL-Caltech.
Publication: November 12, 2018