The remains of a sunlike star paint butterfly wings across the cosmos in a newly released infrared picture of Messier 27, aka the Dumbbell nebula, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
The object is what's known as a planetary nebula, so named because early astronomers thought the faint interstellar clouds resembled Jupiter-like planets. In fact, such nebulae are what's left when midsize stars die and shed their outer layers of gas.
M27 was discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier, who included it in his now famous catalog of nebulous objects. Although Messier didn't realize it at the time, the Dumbbell was the first planetary nebula he described.
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