This is an interesting object: it’s called the Egg Nebula, a protoplanetary nebula located in our galaxy 3,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. Here, an opaque cloud of dust and gas hides a central star that’s expelling its outer layers. Beams of the star’s light escape the cloud through holes, illuminating the layers.
This image is a color-composite I made from image data acquired by the ACS/WFC instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope in near-infrared and optical wavelengths in October 2016 (Principal Investigator: Dean Hines). I downloaded the publicly-available data in FITS format from the Space Telescope Science Institute’s MAST archive and processed the final color results via Photoshop.
Protoplanetary nebulae are rare cosmic beasts as they are relatively short-term parts of stellar life cycles, lasting only a few thousand years (or as little as 100.) Eventually the core star will stop expelling its outer layers, heat up, and become a planetary nebula.
Altogether the Egg Nebula is a little over a light-year across, or about the same diameter of the Solar System including the entire Oort Cloud.
On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Earth with its precious cargo, the Hubble Space Telescope. The next day, astronauts released the telescope into space to begin its journey of discovery. No one could have predicted what wonders Hubble would see in the 30 years that followed. From our own cosmic backyard to the far reaches of the universe, Hubble showed us properties of space and time that for most of human history could only be imagined. Today, Hubble continues to churn out groundbreaking science, revealing new views of cosmic wonders and helping to answer even more of astronomy’s major questions. In the future, it will partner with NASA’s next great observatories, the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), to provide complementary science. (NASA)