Scientists have concluded the checkout period for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and are now revealing images showcasing the power of the much-improved observatory. This is a pan sequence of the planetary nebula NGC 6302 (aka the Butterfly Nebula), located 3,800 light-years away, imaged on July 27, 2009 with Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour. The dying star at the center of nebula is hidden within a doughnut-shaped ring of dust that appears as a dark band pinching the middle of the nebula. A complex history of gas ejections from the star are revealed in the image. The numerous finger-like projetions pointing back to the star, may mark denser blobs in the outflow that have resisted the pressure from the stellar wind.
Publication: September 9, 2009