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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 21:20 EDT
Ring-Like Planetary Nebula SuWt 2
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Ring-Like Planetary Nebula SuWt 2

June 26, 2008

This image of the planetary nebula SuWt 2 reveals a bright ring-like structure encircling a bright central star. The central star is actually a close binary system where two stars completely circle each other every five days. The interaction of these stars and the more massive star that sheds material to create the nebula formed the ring structure. The burned out core of the massive companion has yet to be found inside the nebula. The nebula is located 6,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. This color image was taken on Jan. 31, 1995 with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's 1.5-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.