Space Candy: Helix Nebula’s Gaping Maw

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—Image courtesy ESO

Going supernova is arguably the most popular way for a star to die. But stars like our sun actually end not with a bang, but a whimper [nods to T.S. Eliot].

These mid-size stars don’t explode at the end of their lives, they swell, releasing shells of gas as they blossom into planetary nebulas, which for the record, don’t have much to do with planets.

Such is the Helix, a widely imaged nebula that lies about 700 light-years away.

In a new picture taken by ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers can see distant galaxies through the nebula’s thinly spread gases.

Is it just me, or does this version of the Helix look like a giant space fish about to swallow us whole?

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