For long time, scientists, researchers and astronomers have thought that Ring nebula, an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases, is shaped like a bagel. But the latest images captured by NASA‘s Hubble space telescope reveal that it looks more like a jelly doughnut because it’s filled with ‘material in the middle.’
The Ring nebula, located in the constellation Lyra, is about 2,000 light-years from Earth and measures roughly 1 light-year across. All of the gas found in the center of the nebula was expelled by the central star about 4,000 years ago. After billions of years converting hydrogen to helium in its core, the original star which was several times more massive than our Sun, began to run out of fuel and became a red giant.
C. R. Robert O’Dell of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and his team used the Hubble space telescope with other ground-based telescopes to get the new images of Ring nebula. After getting the new images, the team started comparing those images with the old images taken by Hubble in 1998. According to O’Dell’s team, the blue structure is the glow of helium and radiation from the white dwarf star (the white dot in the center of the ring) is causing the helium to glow. The team also found that Ring nebula is expanding at more than 43,000 miles an hour, but the center is moving faster than the expansion of the main ring.
O’Dell said, “The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it’s like a jelly doughnut, because it’s filled with material in the middle. With Hubble’s detail, we see a completely different shape than what’s been thought about historically for this classic nebula. The new Hubble observations show the nebula in much clearer detail, and we see things are not as simple as we previously thought.”
He also mentioned that the Ring Nebula will continue to expand for another 10,000 years and the nebula will become fainter and fainter until it merges with the interstellar medium.