Planetary Nebulas - Beauty in Space - The Last Gasps then Death of a Star

The Cat's Eye Nebula.
The Cat's Eye Nebula. | Source

I am amazed at the images that the Hubble Telescope has been able to capture for us. I think it is absolutely fascinating to learn more about our universe and what is out in space that we can observe. Planetary nebulas are amazing things to observe, and I recall first seeming surprised that they were actually the death of a star. This seems so odd, that some of the most magnificent colors and light and energy that we can observe are the dying then death of a star. Its more amazing still, than the most glorious sunset or firework demonstration that I have ever seen.

So what is happening when we observe the light and color of a planetary nebula?

Backing up a bit, we must look at how helium fuses in the core of a red giant, which is a star in the later phases of its life. Many scientists say that helium fuses in the core of one of these red giants for about two billion years (though to be fair, I am not completely aware of how they come to those conclusions, and know they have their reasons, based on on what they do know). After enough time passes, this helium "runs out." Carbon and oxygen have been produced as well, along the way. The right temperatures are never reached however, for the carbon and oxygen to do anything really. If it were a star like our sun for instance, it would mark the end of that star's ability to create any more energy. Its a sad thing to consider the death of such a star (to me anyway), as when it creates no more energy, it is close to death.

The Amazing Butterfly Nebula.  Too beautiful for words.
The Amazing Butterfly Nebula. Too beautiful for words. | Source

What is happening when a star is actually dying?

 I hate to talk about the death of a star like this for some reason, but this is what is happening and I am glad that it makes such a "show" because after who knows if mankind would ever have known of it?  Think of all the ones we have missed. 

Anyway, in the very core of the star there is a succession of "death rattles" you could say, that actually ejects matter into the surrounding space from the red giants outer layers.  When this is happening, the matter can mover up to about twenty miles per second.  It kind of gives off waves of matter, and it expands outward.  This is what we are seeing in the pictures.  The light we are seeing is from x rays and radiation (ultraviolet) that comes pouring out, and this mixes with the surrounding gas.  This is when the colors seems to explode so that we can see it with the amazing telescopic images.  Wow, isn't that amazing?   These are called planetary nebulas.  I think they are some of the most beautiful things ever seen in the heavens to date. 

There is nothing having to do with planets, and they were named as they were by an 18th century English astronomer William Herschel.  Back in his day, they looked to him and others like the disks from planets. 

The Eskimo Nebula
The Eskimo Nebula | Source

Forms of Planetary Nebulas

Some planetary nebulas look like spherical bubbles, some a single bubble, and some with multiple. Some seems to have rings, and they glow beautifully. Some of the ones I have seen are The Cat's Eye, The Eskimo, Southern Ring, The Egg Nebula, and The Butterfly Nebula, one of my personal favorite. Its wild to consider what is actually being seen at the point we can see it, versus actual time, and adding the speed of light, etc. It just literally boggles the mind.

My final thoughts

All I know, is that I am ever thankful for our own Planet Earth and our Sun, and all the anthropic constants involved that make life possible. That is actually even more mind boggling. We have so much life and to add to that the awareness of our lives and the ability to ponder it all at all. Its rather an amazing universe that we call our home.

I am prompted to add also, that I am passing along current understandings of science as it has come to me. I am not stating what I am above with 100% absolute certainty because we haven't been around long enough to observe it.  I know they are going off of what they know, and how they understand matter, energy and gasses generally "behave" in space.  I am still at the mercy of scientists like the Hubble Team and Nasa, and they know a bit more about all these things than I do!  I am very grateful to have access to such distant happenings at all, they are amazing!

The Egg Nebula.  I love the surrounding stars as well.  This just blows me away.
The Egg Nebula. I love the surrounding stars as well. This just blows me away. | Source

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Comments 29 comments

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JStefanforTax 6 years ago

This is an awesome piece!

OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago

While the information in this hub along with the photos is very interesting, I really have a problem with the conclusions.

In the hundred years that we have been able to really look at the universe, how many actual completion of events could have possibly taken place.

Take the cycle of creating, forming and maturing a star, and then the dying of the star and its final end.

Is that process going to take a hundred years, or will it take millions or billions.

All of the size of objects in the universe, and rotational speeds and distances between and to them are made by estimation of light intensity and Doppler effects.

What if the astrophysicists are wrong in their method of estimation?

We have light sources, reflected light and scattered light and huge amounts of darkness so how valid can these estimates be.

It is great that we have estimates but we have not been around long enough to actually see cycles in the universe any major event.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 6 years ago from USA

I found this just amazing.

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Nice! I go visit the NASA images daily. They never cease to amaze me.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

JStefanforTax, thank you so much, I am glad you stopped by!

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hi Opinion Duck, so glad you stopped by and shared your opinion and thoughts. You ask excellent questions, and many of them are mine as well.

If you notice, I said many scientists say that (fill in the blank), and not all. Of course I am not stating any of this as a matter of 100% absolute fact, but passing along what I have learned that the experts of the Hubbble Team and Nasa have to say regarding these things.

There are simply too many variable that go into something like the life and death of a star, to state anything as absolutely positive. If you knew me, you would know I can be pretty skeptical of many scientific findings actually, and there is a lot of "bad science" going on these days.

You ask what all could be learned in one hundred years time, and that is fair. Being able to see further and clearer than ever before however, and also taking into account how many stars are out there, is it so odd to see a few in their later stages of life? So much more could be said on the topic, this is just a skimming of it really and sharing what I learned.

Astrophysicists COULD be wrong in their method of estimations, that is true. At the very least, all the varying opinions out there can't all be right, for obvious reasons. I suspect that better explanations could be given than they have given, and that I have shared here but I haven't seen those yet.

Finally, you are right that we haven't been around long enough to watch the whole process.

I touch on in my hub what you allude to, and that is we find out with more accuracy what is going on, as in the example of the words, "planetary nebula." That name was given because of what William Herschel "thought" was involved, but it turns out they have nothing at all to do with planets. I truly appreciate your comment.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

I voted your hub up, Oceansnsunsets. It is awesome. I love the beauty of the photos and enjoy watching NOVA when this program comes up. You did a great job explaining all of it. Its way to technical for me to wrap my brain around, so I leave that to others. I just enjoy. :)

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Barbara Kay, thank you and I am so happy to hear that. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY

Amazing! Just wonderful images, I never knew that a star could die, this is sad and yes beautiful at the same time. Fascinating- great hub, thanks for sharing these images.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Thank you AustinStar! I am in agreement, that NASA's images are amazing.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Denise, thank you for stopping by and for your comment :)I love to learn more about these things, and always enjoy the photos that NASA shares.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Thank you Rpalulis!

naturegirl7 profile image

naturegirl7 6 years ago from South Louisiana

Your wonderful selection of images from the Hubble telescope and your statement of current scientific theory together make a very interesting and beautiful hub. Thanks.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Naturegirl, thank you very much!

OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago


Thanks for the kind reply and I think that you hub did a great job. I understand your presentation and your view. We can enjoy the information and the photos without having to know the truth.

I will look forward to reading more of your hubs.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

A welcome hub in the middle of winter!

These pictures almost seem sureal!

swedal profile image

swedal 6 years ago from Colorado

Amazing images from a distance, though to be in the middle of them would probably be chaos and destruction.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Thank you, Opinion Duck, I appreciate that very much. For what it is worth, I love truth and want to always be pursuing it, and I hear what you are saying too. Glad for your comments.

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Someonewhoknows, thank you so much! I can't believe the pictures, and what is going on out there, its amazing isn't it?

Swedal, I agree with you there. Thank you for your visit and comment. :)

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Read Marshall B. Gardner's Journey to the Earth's Interior, for a really good explanation of his theory of Nebulae and planet creation . . .

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Thanks Somethgblue!

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

I also seek the truth in all things, consider for a moment all that is not known, but just because it is not known to us doesn't imply that it is being withheld from us.

I submit to you that within our lifetimes, I'm 49, that humanity will alter their collective way of thinking allowing their perspective to change radically and enabling the masses to recover much of the ancient truth mankind knew in the not so distant past.

I believe along with the coming Polar Shift and geological upheavals, that we (humanity) will also evolve and it will be in our minds, the way we think, how we perceive our World.

If a large portion of the population were to disappear by physically moving their bodies to another dimension, they would be noticeable missed, however if this were to take place during a World Wide cataclysm, where millions die then they would not.

really good article!

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Somethingblue, very very interesting. I hear you... We may not completely agree on a lot of things, as I don't know fully what you think and believe, but I do think there is much more going on than meets the eyes. A world wide cataclysm...I wonder in what form you are speaking of there? I have a lot of thoughts on all these kinds of things. Thanks for sharing and stopping by and for your comment.

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

The HAB Theory and Polar Shift

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Somethingblue, Not as familiar with those as I would ilke to be, but will look into those things more as time allows. Thanks for sharing that. Its all very interesting to me.

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

I am in the middle of a nebula series now, but I am linking this wonderful hub to the first one where I talk about nebula types. I just barely touch on it, and you have a wonderful hub here.

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

First of all everything ever written is fiction based on someone's interpretation of history or science. For example before science had progressed to a better understanding of radiation (Röntgen radiation), were called X-rays.

X-rays are emitted by electrons outside the nucleus, while gamma rays are emitted by the nucleus.

Now that we can distinguish a difference between Gamma and Rontgen wavelengths why do we continue to use the vague term X-rays.

My belief is this is done on purpose to keep the masses ignorant and conditioned, surely the author has the same ability as I do to research the term and make the distinction, however due to our conditioning we simple ignore the obvious and prefer to regurgitate what is commonly accepted regardless of the truth.

NASA (Never A Straight Answer) is as guilty of this as much as any agency. We as a society would rather accept any form of information as the truth rather than investigate for ourselves and so often we simple reinforce common misconceptions as the truth.

I would much prefer to read someone's opinion of the matter rather than the repeated dogma of others, after all I'm perfectly capable of reading the pseudo science currently available to all.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi Oceanssunsets the amazing images captured by Hubble defy description.

Of course none of us really knows what is out there..Noone has gone there at this point. And won't it be fun for thaose who thousands of years from now read what we speculated?

Thanks for this...I am in awe of the wonders of our universe. Angels are on the way today ps

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hi Ps, I agree about the images that Hubble has captured. They are beyond description, and yet we can be afforded a gliimpse of these happenings to some degree! I wonder about the future too, and how they will look back on what we saw and deduced, etc. I too am in awe of the wonders of the universe, its incredible and beautiful and so interesting! I am glad you commented, thank you!

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