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NASA Space

Kepler to Investigate Newly Discovered Nebula 38

derGoldstein writes with an article in DigitalTrends: "An amateur astronomer recently discovered what has been confirmed to be one of the best looks yet at a planetary nebula, the last, gassy breath of a dying star. The nebula, named Kronenberger 61 after the enthusiast who discovered it, will offer insights into the future and death of our own sun."
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Kepler to Investigate Newly Discovered Nebula

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  • What you are seeing (Score:5, Informative)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @05:30PM (#36888528) Homepage

    The pretty picture in TFA is caused by the nebula being lit up by radiation (mainly ultraviolent) from the dying star at the center. As the star dies from running out of stuff which is easy to efficiently fuse in the core, the star undergoes contractions and expansions which push the outer layers away to form a nebula. The term "planetary nebula" is a bit misleading- they are called that because they look like planetary discs if one looks for them in a small telescope. Phil Plait has a pretty good summary of what we are looking at - http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/07/25/a-glowing-bubbly-bauble-in-space/ [discovermagazine.com]

  • Re:Weird (Score:4, Informative)

    by ToxicPig ( 1614125 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @05:58PM (#36888734)
    There is still a star. It is likely a white dwarf at this stage, or nearing that state. It can be seen in the photo as the white star in the very center of the gas sphere. IF Kepler even detects planets around the white dwarf, it would be extremely interesting (and scientifically significant) to determine what happened to the planets as the star went through its death throes. The inner planets would likely be consumed. The outer planets may have enjoy a brief stint in the Goldilocks Zone of the red giant, and may have very interesting chemistry. Life? Doubtful. Still, cool science to be done here in a somewhat isolated point in time in a star system's life.

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