NASA shared an image of a nebula captured by their Hubble Space Telescope that looks like a deep tunnel in space. The nebula is formed by a dying star named HD 44179, which has been shedding its outer layers for about 14,000 years. The star is similar to the Sun, but it dies and emits gas and other material, which gives it a very distinctive shape. The star is surrounded by an extraordinary structure known as the Red Rectangle – a nickname given to it from Earth because of its shape and apparent color.
But when picked up by the Hubble Telescope, the nebula looks like an “X” with spaced lines of glowing gas separated by rungs.
“This nebula shines like a beacon in our Milky Way,” wrote NASA on Instagram.
The Red Rectangular Nebula is located about 2,300 light years from Earth in the constellation Monoceros, which means “unicorn” in Latin. It is in the northern sky.
In a few million years, when one of the central stars is further depleted of nuclear fuel, the Red Rectangular Nebula will likely bloom into a planetary nebula, according to NASA.
According to ESA, the red rectangle was first discovered during a rocket flight in the early 1970s when astronomers were looking for sources of strong infrared radiation. And the name “Red Rectangle” was coined in 1973 by astronomers Martin Cohen and Mike Merrill, before Hubble unveiled the nebula’s complex X-shape. ESA and NASA launched the Hubble space telescope.
The light of the Red Rectangular Nebula is strange and its composition is food for philosophy. The X shape suggests that something is preventing the star’s atmosphere from expanding evenly, so it remains a hot topic of current research.
The Hubble telescope was launched into space aboard the Discovery shuttle in April 1990. It has since captured enigmatic images of space.