NGC 3132 is known as the Southern Ring Nebula as it strongly resembles its northern counterpart, M57. The Southern Ring is located in the constellation Vela and is approximately 2000 light-years from the Earth. This striking, and colorful, nebula was formed when its dying star expelled most of its outer shell of gas. All that remains of the parent star is a collapsed, extremely hot, core. This white dwarf star emits large amounts of ultraviolet radiation causing the surrounding clouds of gas to glow through florescence much the same as a neon sign glows with its colorful light. Interestingly, the star that formed the nebula, and is responsible for its remarkable color, is not the bright star dominating the center of the nebula, but its dim companion. The bright star is in an earlier stage of its life and, eventually, it will eject its atmosphere and form its own nebula. In about 6 billion years, our own Sun will eject its atmosphere and end its life in a seminar manner as NGC 3132.
The image above was assembled with data obtained from the Hubble Legacy Archive. I chose to assemble the HLA data to create a near true color depiction of the nebula. Three filtered images were used for the red, green and blue channels. These were imaged using filters of F658N for red, F555W for green and F502N for blue. An image consisting of a combination of all available filters was used for the luminance channel. This image is classified in the Hubble Legacy Archive as a detection, or white light, image. The color image was created as a standard LRGB image.
This image was selected as the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 9, 2013.
1Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and obtained from the Hubble Legacy Archive, which is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI/NASA), the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF/ESA) and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC/NRC/CSA).