Earlier last week, a team of astronomers NASA The Stingray captured the Nebula, which is 18,000 light years from Earth and is located near the southern constellation Ara.
The nebula is remarkably dimmed, fading in just 20 years. This difference is visible in images taken in 1996 and 2016 by the Hubble Space Telescope.
According to a NASA press release, Martine A. Guerrero of the Instituto de Astrophysica de Andalucia en Granada, Spain, said the stark contrast seen in the two images is “very, very dramatic and very strange”.
He further said that what we are seeing is the development of a nebula in real time. Over a period of years, we see differences in the nebula that have not been seen with this clarity before.
The nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust in space and mostly they form after a star dies. As a star’s core cools, it begins to shed its outer layers, which expand to form clouds. The nebula is also the cradle in which children make stars.
The Stingray Nebula is scientifically known as Hen 3–1357. It surrounds a dying star, known as a planetary nebula. The glow of the nebula comes from the absorption of ultraviolet radiation from the star as it dies.
The Hubble Space Telescope also posted two photos on its Instagram handle. The caption of the image drew inspiration from “how it’s starting.”
Researchers say the stingray has been seen as the youngest known planet nebula after the Hinge telescope correctly captured images of it as its star began to shed layers. In the opening image, the Niharika has a bright blue color and wavy turquoise edges, which also gave it the oceanic surname.
A NASA press release stated that from 1971 to 2002, the temperature of the star dropped from 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit to 108,000 degrees because atoms of helium fused in a layer around its core. The nebula also appeared to develop during that time, as most of its gas was visible due to increased heat and radiation.
But according to a 2016 study, the star began to cool and by that year, Hubble photographs showed that the nebula had dramatically dimmed, and that its visible portion had reduced in size to a more compact, oval-like shape. Went because there was less heat.