What in the Universe: Ghost of Jupiter Nebula

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What is the puffy red circle in this space telescope image? 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Sonoma State University. 

  • Spitzer Space Telescope image of Ghost of Jupiter Nebula (NGC 3242): NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Hora (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) 
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of Ghost of Jupiter Nebula: Bruce Balick and Jason Alexander (University of Washington), Arsen Hajian (U.S. Naval Observatory), Yervant Terzian (Cornell University ), Mario Perinotto (University of Florence), Patrizio Patriarchi (Arcetri Observatory) and NASA/ESA 
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of the Twin Jet Nebula (PN M2-9): ESA/Hubble and NASA; Judy Schmidt 
  • Hubble Space Telescope and  Large Binocular Telescope  composite image of the Ring Nebula (Messier 57): NASA, ESA, C. Robert O’Dell (Vanderbilt University), and David Thompson (LBTO) 
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope composite image of the Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543): X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; optical: NASA/STScI
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of the Hourglass Nebula (MyCn18): Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger (JPL), the WFPC2 science team, and NASA/ESA 

Written by Claire Blome 
Designed by Leah Hustak and Dani Player 
Editorial and design input from Margaret W. Carruthers, Dr. Quyen Hart, Leah Ramsay, and Timothy Rhue II
Music courtesy of Music for Non-Profits

A red square with a star icon in the middle. It shifts through various scientific shapes.
A puffy white circle turns red.
Text, WHAT IS THIS PUFFY RED CIRCLE? A. A perfectly aligned set of galaxies. B. A ring of material orbiting a black hole. C. A shell of diffuse gas around a dead star. D. An exoplanet with a thick, puffy atmosphere.
Answer C is highlighted.
Text, SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE INFRARED LIGHT. GHOST OF JUPITER NEBULA. (N.G.C. 3242) HYDRA CONSTELLATION. HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE (CLOSEUP) This object, known as a planetary nebula, was created after a star ejected its outer layers of gas, which are still lit by the central star.
Red gases surround the star.
Text, This infrared light image shows the cooler halo of gas in red.
The concentric rings are a result of the star periodically expelling material.
Two shiny ovals of gas.
Text, "Planetary nebula" is a misnomer - they have nothing to do with actual planets.
The name came after objects like this were viewed through low-resolution telescopes more than 200 years ago, and appeared to be planet-like.
A blue sphere surrounded by green, yellow and red gas.
Text, Today, we know that planetary nebulas are important sources of gas and dust.
Different stars surrounded by clouds of colorful gases.
These can eventually mix with interstellar material to form new stars.