Hubble reshapes the Ring Nebula

New Hubble images give scientists the means to recreate the Ring Nebula

Credit: NASA, ESA, and C. Robert O’Dell

Hubble has revealed the most detailed ever observation of the Ring Nebula.

The Ring Nebula (Messier 57) is one of the most distinctive celestial sights in the night sky. Now the Hubble Space Telescope has produced the most detailed observations yet of this spectacular deep-sky object giving scientists the means to construct a more accurate model of the nebula in 3D, finally revealing its true shape. 

Believed to lie just over 2,000 lightyears from Earth, M57 is a planetary nebula, its shape crafted by a dying star at its heart which is shedding layers of gas (forming the ring) in the process of becoming a white dwarf.

Although from Earth the nebula looks elliptical, the new data from Hubble along with ground-based observations has revealed to scientists that it is in fact more doughnut shaped, and full of lower density material that forms the shape of a rugby ball slotted into its centre.

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