This week, the Hubble Space Telescope captured another image of space. The telescope captured an image of the planetary nebula ESO 455-10 interacting with the interstellar medium.
Planetary nebulae can exist for tens of thousands of years
Despite their confusing names, planetary nebulae actually have nothing to do with planets. The initial designation for these nebulae was given that way because it was first made by astronomers who saw unclear shapes in the heavens and assumed they were some kind of planet. In fact, the planetary nebula is “an ionized shell of gas”.
When a star the size of our Sun reaches the end of its life, it ejects its outer layers that move outward and form a shell. This shell is then illuminated by the star’s exposed core, causing the gas to glow brightly. This formation is also called the planetary nebula.
Additionally, this formation can exist for tens of thousands of years before it disintegrates. At the same time, this particular planetary nebula has become intriguing because of the way it interacts with the mostly empty space around it, called the interstellar medium.
In addition, planetary nebulae interact with the interstellar medium by ejecting heavy elements such as metals originally produced inside stars. These elements are planted into the interstellar medium by planetary nebulae, which help form the building blocks for new stars that will eventually be born.
Finally, NASA says in a post about the ESO455-10 imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope;
“The flat shells of ESO 455-10, previously held tightly together as layers of the central star, not only give this planetary nebula its unique appearance, but also provide information about the nebula. The prominent asymmetric arc of material on the north side of the nebula seen in a stellar field is a clear sign of interactions between ESO 455-10 and the interstellar medium.