NASA releases amazing photos all the time, but occasionally one appears that can only be described as truly mind-blowing.
Above is the Twin Jet Nebula (also known as PN M2-9), a bipolar planetary nebula that was captured in all its glory by the Hubble Space Telescope. The dying pair of stars each have roughly the same mass as the Sun, and they are creating cosmic clouds as they die. The shells are actually much less serene than they might appear, they are the ejection of their outer layers at speeds of 600,000 miles per hour or higher.
It’s believed that the stars moved around each other, circling every 100 years or so, which is pretty frequent for a nebula that astronomers believe was only created about 1,200 years ago. It was first discovered by Rudolph Minkowski in 1947, and previously photographed by Hubble in 1997.
According to a NASA release, “The larger star is approaching the end of its days and has already ejected its outer layers of gas into space, whereas its partner is further evolved, and is a small white dwarf.”
To give you a sense of scale, there’s a disc of material around the stars that branches out to a size that’s 15 times wider than the orbit of Pluto, though it’s much too small to be seen in this image.