This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied — rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure (known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372, though sometimes referred to together as NGC 2371/2).
These two lobes are visible to the lower left and upper right of the frame, and together form something known as a planetary nebula. Despite the name, such nebulas have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind. This remnant is visible as the bright star at the center of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes.
The structure of this region is complex. It is filled with dense knots of gas, fast-moving jets that appear to be changing direction over time, and expanding clouds of material streaming outwards on diametrically opposite sides of the remnant star. Patches of this scene glow brightly as the remnant star emits energetic radiation that excites the gas within these regions, causing it to light up. This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years. Eventually the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf.
Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Wade et al.
这张由美国宇航局/欧洲航天局哈勃太空望远镜拍摄的大气图像显示了双子座中黑暗、阴郁的景象。这幅图像的主体在最初研究时让天文学家感到困惑——由于其对称的叶状结构(被称为NGC 2371和NGC 2372，尽管有时一起被称为NGC 2371/2)，它没有被归类为一个单一的天体，而是被记录为两个天体。
资料来源:ESA (European Space Agency)
图片来源:ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Wade et al.