As a tradition, Observatories around the globe routinely release holiday themed astro-photos. This year the Hubble Space Telescope has released a breath taking image of NGC 5189, a planetary nebula in the constellation Musca.
The image captured by Hubble, resembles a ribbon and glass bauble such as one might find hanging on a Christmas tree. The circular shape in the center of the nebula can be seen as an ornament made of blown glass, and the reddish knotted structure that flows around the middle looks like a tangled ribbon that holds the ornament in place.
A planetary nebula is one of the last stages in the life of a mid-size star like our sun. The dying star sloughs off its outer layers and shoots them out into the universe, resulting in the "ribbon-like" filaments surrounding the middle of the star. At the center of the nebula is a densely packed white dwarf star whose mass is stuffed into a volume about the size of Earth, but the entire planetary nebula is the size of our solar system.
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