Image of the Day: Witness this white dwarf's gaseous last gasp

The great Neil Young once sang that "it's better to burn out than fade away," and this new Hubble Space Telescope image from NASA of a perishing star illustrates that point perfectly. Capturing the dying decades of a withering white dwarf, this striking photo depicts the glowing radiance of the planetary nebula NGC 2440, a massive cloud of interstellar gas cast off by the tiny white dot in the center.   

NGC 2440 is located approximately 4,000 light-years from our Earth, in the constellation Puppis.

The mesmerizing snapshot is colorized to indicate different types of gas surrounding the burnout star, which glow differently due to their elemental compositions, density and proximity to the star, using blue for helium, blue-green for oxygen and red representing by nitrogen and hydrogen. Planetary nebulae were labeled incorrectly due to 18th and 19th century astronomers peering through small telescopes and likening them to the warped accretion disks of the distant planets Neptune and Uranus.  

Have a look and tell us if this cosmic funeral moves you to Earthbound tears.

(Via Space)

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