Washington: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has captured a stunning image of a dying star's final moments.
The curving structure of Menzel 2 resembles a last goodbye before the star reaches its final stage of retirement as a white dwarf.
Planetary nebula PK 329-02.2, otherwise known as Menzel 2, is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky. It is sometimes referred to as Mz 2 and is named after the astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered the nebula in 1922.
When stars that are around the mass of the sun reach their final stages of life, they shed their outer layers into space, which appear as glowing clouds of gas called planetary nebulae, explained the European Space Agency (ESA) in a press release.
Since the ejection of mass in stellar burnout is irregular and not symmetrical, planetary nebulae can have very complex shapes. In the case of Menzel 2 the nebula forms a winding blue cloud that perfectly aligns with two stars at its center.
In 1999 astronomers discovered that the star at the upper right is in fact the central star of the nebula, and the star to the lower left is probably a true physical companion of the central star.
For tens of thousands of years the stellar core will be cocooned in spectacular clouds of gas and then, over a period of a few thousand years, the gas will fade away into the depths of the universe.