Myth vs Reality: What Is a Planetary Nebula?

Video Player

Video Versions

 This short video addresses the misconception that planetary nebulae have anything to due with planets.

Planetary Nebulas
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach.
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI except:
·       Sun rotation movie courtesy of NASA/STEREO
·       Animation of Sun becoming a red dwarf courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Animation of a planetary nebula’s expansion courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser)
·       Planetary nebula fly-around animation courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser)
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
·       Abell 39 image courtesy of WIYN/NOAO/NSF
·       Bipolar planetary nebula formation animation by Thomas Goertel (STScI)
·       Garden Sprinkler Nebula image courtesy of ESA, A. Riera (Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain) and P. Garcia-Lario (European Space Agency ISO Data Centre, Spain)
·       Garden sprinkler animation courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009) image courtesy of Brad Ehrhorn/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF
·       Photo of observatory dome courtesy of Phil Massey, Lowell Observatory/NOAO/AURA/NSF
·       Animation of Hubble Space Telescope over Earth courtesy of ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)
·       Cat’s Eye Nebula ground-based image courtesy of Bruce Balick, University of Washington
·       Ring Nebula ground-based image courtesy of Daniel Folha and Simon Tulloch, Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma
·       Helix Nebula ground-based image copyright Edward M. Henry
·       Image of Magellanic Clouds courtesy of ESO/C. Malin
·       Image of Large Magellanic Cloud © Australian Astronomical Observatory; photograph by David Malin
Written by Vanessa Thomas and John Stoke
Designed by John Godfrey 
Music courtesy of Association Production Music


 Top left, a black and white picture of a minotaur. Top right, a color picture of a nebula. 

Text, MYTH versus REALITY 

Myth side 

Text, Planetary nebulae are related to planets. 

Reality side 

Text, Planetary nebulae are actually the gaseous remains of dead or dying medium-sized stars that have blown away their outer layers. When they were first observed with small telescopes, these cosmic clouds looked to astronomers like planets. Early observers called them planetary nebulae, and the name stuck.