A star's colourful final splash

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this beautiful image of NGC 6326, a planetary nebula with glowing wisps of outpouring gas that are lit up by a central star nearing the end of its life. When a star ages and the red giant phase of its life comes to an end, it starts to eject layers of gas from its surface leaving behind a hot and compact white dwarf. Sometimes this ejection results in elegantly symmetric patterns of glowing gas, but NGC 6326 is much less structured. This object is located in the constellation of Ara, the Altar, about 11 000 light-years from Earth.

Planetary nebulae are one of the main ways in which elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are dispersed into space after their creation in the hearts of stars. Eventually some of this outflung material may form new stars and planets. The vivid red and blue hues in this image come from the material glowing under the action of the fierce ultraviolet radiation from the still hot central star.

This picture was created from images taken using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The red light was captured through a filter letting through the glow from hydrogen gas (F658N). The blue glow comes from ionised oxygen and was recorded through a green filter (F502N). The green layer of the image, which shows the stars well, was taken through a broader yellow filter (F555W). The total exposure times were 1400 s, 360 s and 260 s respectively. The field of view is about 30 arcseconds across.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble and NASA

About the Image

Id:potw1010a
Type:Observation
Release date:28 June 2010, 10:00
Size:690 x 601 px

About the Object

Name:NGC 6326
Type:• Milky Way : Nebula : Type : Planetary
Distance:11000 light years
Constellation:Ara

Image Formats

Large JPEG
186.1 KB
Screensize JPEG
291.9 KB

Wallpapers

1024x768
360.6 KB
1280x1024
539.7 KB
1600x1200
697.8 KB
2048x1536
978.4 KB

Coordinates

Position (RA):17 20 46.04
Position (Dec):-51° 45' 14.33"
Field of view:0.52 x 0.45 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 15.8° left of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
Oii
502 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
V
555 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2
Optical
H-alpha
658 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2

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