(See description below)
The Skull Nebula
Planetary nebula NGC 246, nicknamed "the Skull Nebula", surrounds a dying star some 1,600 light-years away in the constellation Cetus. Expelled over a period of thousands of years, the lovely, intricate nebula is the outer atmosphere of a once sun-like star. The expanding outer atmosphere is interacting with the gas and dust in the interstellar medium, while the star itself, the fainter member of the binary star system seen at the nebula's center, is entering its final phase of evolution, becoming a dense, hot white dwarf. Star and nebula are moving rapidly toward the top of the detailed view, as suggested by the nebula's brighter, upper, leading edge. The nebula is about 2.5 light-years in diameter.