The Hubble Space Telescope peered into the cloudy heart of a dying star, revealing cobwebs of dust and sooty carbon that are seeding the surrounding space with the raw materials for future stars and planets. The star in question, CW Leonis, is a luminous red giant with a carbon-rich atmosphere, the closest such “carbon star” to Earth at a distance of about 400 light years. After running out of hydrogen fuel, the star’s core contracted under the inward crush of gravity until pressure rose to the point that plasma in a shell surrounding the core began fusing. The resulting heat caused the star’s outer atmosphere to balloon outward, blowing vast clouds into space. The intricate inner structure of the visible shells and arcs surrounding CW Leonis may be sculpted by the star’s magnetic field while gaps in the surrounding dust let light slip through like searchlight beacons in a cloudy sky.
The artistic outburst of an extremely young star, in the earliest phase of formation, is captured in this spectacular image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The colourful wisps, found in the lower left of the image, are painted onto the sky by a young star cocooned in the partially illuminated cloud of obscuring dust seen to the upper right.
This incredible image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of colourful galaxies in the constellation of Leo, components of cluster known as MACS J1149.5+2223. This vibrant view of the early universe was captured as part of the Frontier Fields campaign, which aims to investigate galaxy clusters in more detail than ever before.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the globular cluster NGC 1854, a gathering of white and blue stars in the southern constellation of Dorado. NGC 1854 is located about 135,000 light-years away, in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of our closest cosmic neighbours and a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.