Planetary nebula Abell 36
lies a mere 800 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. At that
distance it spans over 1 light-year in this sharp telescopic view.
Shrugging off its outer layers, the nebula's central star is
contracting and becoming hotter, evolving towards a final white dwarf
phase. In fact, the central star in Abell 36 is estimated to
have a surface temperature of over 73,000 K, compared to the
Sun's 6,000 K temperature. As a result, the intensely hot star
is much brighter in ultraviolet light, compared to its visual
appearance here. The invisible ultraviolet light ionizes hydrogen and
oxygen atoms in the nebula and ultimately powers the beautiful visible
light glow. The shape of the nebula suggests, to some, the
head of an owl.