The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular new image of an extraordinary star that looks more like a square than a sphere. The telescope has spotted the star, called HD 44179, which is surrounded by an extraordinary structure known as the Red Rectangle.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope used the High Resolution Channel of its Advanced Camera for Surveys to capture the new image of HD 44179 and the surrounding Red Rectangle nebula. In fact, this latest image represents the sharpest view yet captured with the use of a camera. The red light that you see in the image that's due to the glowing hydrogen was captured with the help of the F658N filter and then colored red. The orange-red light that occurs over a wider range of wavelengths through the F625W filter was colored blue.
The Red Rectangle has a striking, square-like shape. It also has a reddish color, especially when seen in early images that were taken of it from Earth. The new image, though, reveals how when seen from space, the nebula looks more like an X than a square. It also possesses additional complex structures of spaced lines of glowing gas. These look a bit like ribs that fall along the X-like pattern.
The Red Rectangle is an example of what is known as a proto-planetary nebula. These are old stars that are on their way of becoming planetary nebulae. Once the star completely expulses its mass, a hot white dwarf star will remain and its ultraviolet radiation will cause the surrounding gas to glow.
The star at the center of the Red Rectangle is actually very similar to our own sun. However, this star is at the end of its lifetime and is currently shooting out gas and other material. This material makes up the nebula surrounding it and gives it its distinctive shape.
The latest image from NASA reveals a bit more about this unusual feature in space. More specifically, it shows off the X-shape of the Red Rectangle rather than just showing a square-like shape. This, in turn, tells scientists a bit more about where the star is ejecting its material as it begins its transformation into a dwarf star.