September 21, 2023 17:40 PST images online: 78,581,530

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August 25, 2023: Ring Nebula appears as a distorted doughnut. The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has observed the well-known Ring Nebula with unprecedented detail. Formed by a star throwing off its outer layers as it runs out of fuel, the Ring Nebula is an archetypal planetary nebula. Also known as M57 and NGC 6720, it is both relatively close to Earth at roughly 2,500 light-years away. The filament structure of the inner ring are particularly visible in this dataset. There are some 20,000 dense globules in the nebula, which are rich in molecular hydrogen. In contrast, the inner region shows very hot gas. The main shell contains a thin ring of enhanced emission fromcarbon-based molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Roughly ten concentric arcs are located just beyond the outer edge of the main ring. The arcs are thought to originate from the interaction of the central star with a low-mass companion orbiting at a distance comparable to that between the Earth and the dwarf planet Pluto. In this way, nebulae like the Ring Nebula reveal a kind of astronomical archaeology, as astronomers study the nebula to learn about the star that created it. The nebula's inner cavity hosts shades of blue and green, while the detailed ring transitions through shades of orange in the inner regions and pink in the outer region. (Credit Image: © CSA M. Barlow/ESA/Webb/NASA via ZUMA Press Wire)

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