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Hubble Heritage Archive: The Cat’s Eye Nebula, NGC 6543

11 Mar 2020, 12:00 UTC
Hubble Heritage Archive: The Cat’s Eye Nebula, NGC 6543
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The text and images in this article were originally published on September 9, 2004, and reflect information about NGC 6543 available at that time.

DYING STAR CREATES FANTASY-LIKE SCULPTURE OF GAS AND DUST

In this detailed view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the so-called Cat’s Eye Nebula looks like the penetrating eye of the disembodied sorcerer Sauron from the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

The nebula, formally catalogued NGC 6543, is every bit as inscrutable as the J.R.R. Tolkien phantom character. Though the Cat’s Eye Nebula was the first planetary nebula to be discovered, it is one of the most complex such nebulae seen in space. A planetary nebula forms when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers that form bright nebulae with amazing and confounding shapes.

In 1994, Hubble first revealed NGC 6543’s surprisingly intricate structures, including concentric gas shells, jets of high-speed gas, and unusual shock-induced knots of gas.

As if the Cat’s Eye itself isn’t spectacular enough, this new image taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) reveals the full beauty of a bull’s eye pattern of eleven or even more concentric rings, or shells, around the Cat’s Eye. Each ‘ring’ is ...

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