The Cat’s Eye Nebula, also known as NGC 6543, is a visual "fossil record" of the dynamics and late evolution of a dying star. NGC 6543, located 3,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Draco, was one of the first planetary nebulae to be discovered. Planetary nebulae form when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers, creating amazing and confounding shapes.
Observations suggest the star that created the Cat’s Eye Nebula ejected its mass in a series of pulses at 1,500-year intervals. These convulsions created dust shells making a layered, onion-skin structure around the dying star.
NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI);
Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, HEIC, NOT, Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2), STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, and UKSTU/AAO, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain)
Publication: September 9, 2004