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Planetary nebula surrounding star.
The Subaru telescope captured this image of a dusty planetary nebula surrounding a star similar to our own Sun at the end of its life. Located 5,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, the nebula is very similar to the more famous Ring Nebula. When they reach the end of their lives, stars like our own Sun shed layers of gas and dust which pile up around the star, and are pushed outward. In this nebula, the material has reached a distance of 100 times the size of our Solar System.
The shape of the Helix Nebula has always been a bit of a mystery to astronomers; some theorized that it's donut-shaped, or it could even resemble a snake-like coil. But new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope have helped to shed some light on this issue. Researchers tracked the speed of material being expended from the central dying star, and came to the conclusion that it's actually two gaseous disks which are perpendicular to each other. One disk was expelled 6,600 years ago, and the other was fired off 12,000 years ago.
Astronomers had seen storms around Titan's south pole before, but now they've been discovered at the moon's mid-latitudes as well. The discovery was made using the Gemini North and Keck 2 observatories, which have adaptive optics systems capable of resolving Saturn's largest Moon with great detail. These storms could be created by surface activities, like cryovolcanoes which could spew an icy mix of chemicals into the atmosphere. It could also be caused by seasonal temperature changes, like the weather here on Earth.
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