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    NGC 5189: Hubble's Cosmic Tree Ornament Gift To You
    By News Staff | December 22nd 2012 12:00 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Nearby planetary nebula NGC 5189 and its bright gaseous nebula resembles a holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon - so it is perfect for a new Hubble image during the Christmas season.

     Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope and this material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures, as the ejection of mass from the star is uneven in both time and direction.

    The bluish lobes of NGC 5189 show its knotty and filamentary structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions.

    This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days as a white dwarf. However, there is no visual candidate for the possible companion.


    Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

    The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.

    This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on October 8, 2012, in filters tuned to the specific colors of fluorescing sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Broad filters in the visible and near-infrared were used to capture the star colors.