From NASA/ESA Hubble: “NGC 2346”

NASA Hubble Telescope

NGC 2346 is a so-called “planetary nebula,” which is ejected from Sun-like stars which are near the ends of their lives.

Principal Astronomers: S. Curiel, Jorge Cantó, Alejandro Raga (Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Alberto Noriega-Crespo (IPAC), and collaborators.
Release date: 7 October 1999
Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2
Hubble Space Telescope ACS



NGC 2346 is remarkable because its central star is known to be actually a very close pair of stars, orbiting each other every 16 days. It is believed that the binary star was originally more widely separated. However, when one component of the binary evolved, expanded in size, and became a red-giant star, it literally swallowed its companion star. The companion star then spiralled downwards inside the red giant, and in the process spewed out gas into aring around the binary system. Later on, when the hot core of the red giant was exposed, it developed a faster stellar wind, which emerged perpendicularly to the ring and inflated two huge “bubbles”. This two-stage process is believed to have resulted in the butterfly-like shape of the nebula. NGC 2346 lies about 2,000 light-years away from us, and is about one-third of a light-year in size.

See the full article here.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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