Picture of the Day: Cat’s Eye Nebula
CAT’S EYE NEBULA
In this detailed view from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the so-called Cat’s Eye Nebula looks like the penetrating eye of the disembodied sorcerer Sauron from the film adaptation of “Lord of the Rings.”
The nebula, formally catalogued NGC 6543, is every bit as inscrutable as the J.R.R. Tolkien phantom character. Although the Cat’s Eye Nebula was the first planetary nebula ever to be discovered, it is one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever seen in space. A planetary nebula forms when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers to form bright nebulae with amazing twisted shapes.
The image above was released back on September 9, 2004. The nebula is located some 3000 light years away.