The lovely, symmetric planetary nebula
cataloged as MWP1 lies some
4,500 light-years away in the northern constellation
Cygnus the Swan.
One of the largest
known, it spans about 15
Based on its expansion rate
the nebula has an age of 150 thousand years,
a cosmic blink of an eye
in the 10 billion year life of a sun-like star.
But planetary nebulae represent a very brief final phase in
evolution, as the nebula's central star shrugs off
its outer layers to become a hot white dwarf.
In fact, planetary nebulae ordinarily only last
for 10 to 20 thousand years.
As a result, truly
offers a beautiful
challenge to astronomers studying the evolution of its central star.
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