Hubble captures an ailing star’s death knell

The red giant star is in the midst of dispersing into a planetary nebula.
By | Published: February 7, 2017 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The Calabash Nebula, technically named OH 231.8+04.2, is tranforming from a red giant to a planetary nebula.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

The Hubble Telescope has taken a picture of something astronomers almost never get to see: the death of a star.

According to the European Space Agency, this type of event happens “within the blink of an eye – in astronomical term,” making it difficult for astronomers to witness the event and even harder to get a picture of it.

Luckily, The Hubble Telescope was paying attention and captured the red giant transforming into a planetary nebula, leaving clouds of gas and dust in its wake. A white dwarf star, a compact stellar remnant, will likely remain at the center. The Sun itself will turn into a red giant in 5 to 8 billion years.

The gas moves as fast as 621,371 miles per hour and is known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because of its sulfur content, the same chemical that gives rotten eggs their distinct stench.