This is an artist’s impression of the Ring Nebula’s structure, fading from the new Hubble image into a 3D visualisation.
It is based on new Hubble observations of the nebula, which is actually shaped a little like a distorted doughnut. Although the centre of this doughnut may look empty, it is actually full of lower density material that stretches both towards and away from us, creating a shape similar to a rugby ball slotted into the doughnut’s central gap. The space around the nebula is turbulent and full of knotty structures that formed in the nebula’s past.
The brightest part of this nebula is what we see as the colourful main ring. This is composed of gas thrown off by a dying star at the centre of the nebula.
Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, M. Kornmesser.