Abell 36 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Virgo. It is one of the closest planetary nebulae and lies only 780 to 800 light years from the Earth. These spectacular celestial objects are the final stage in the lifespan of sun-like stars. As median sized stars age and deplete their supply of hydrogen fuel, they swell into red giants and begin to throw off their outer atmospheric layers eventually leaving only an extremely hot core known as a white dwarf. The central white dwarf star in Abell 36 has a temperature of over 73,000K and emits prodigious amounts of ultra violet radiation. This radiation excites the expelled surrounding gases causing them to glow. This will be the fate of our own Sun in approximately 5 billion years. The gaseous envelop, along with heavier elements, that surround the dying star continues to expand and dissipate into the interstellar medium. In approximately 10,000 years, only a blink of the eye in astronomical time, this beautiful nebula will no longer be visible.
The image above was assembled using hydrogen alpha (Ha) and doubly ionized oxygen (OIII) filtered images. The Ha image was mapped to the Red channel and the OIII was mapped to the Green and Blue channels. This bi-color method produces a image that approximates the natural color of the subject object. The stars were overlayed with data from a red, green, and blue filtered image in order to best represent their true colors.
1NASA APOD March 30, 2014
2SyFy Wire - Gorgeousness in Death