The Hubble Space Telescope has captured this amazing image of the Proto-planetary nebula PK166-06, also known as the Westbrook Nebula.
PK166-06 Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
The nebula is being formed as a dying star fires off some of its outer layers into space. As the central star is still in its red giant stage it is cool and dim, meaning that is not heating the nebula up enough to make it shine brightly in visible wavelengths. Most of the light given out by this object and the few hundred other objects like it emit most of their radiation in the I-R range, some of which has been captured by Hubble’s near infra-red camera and incorporated into this image.
As the star ages further its outer layers will be completely expelled to space leaving only its hot core – a white dwarf. This is much hotter than the star currently is. As such it will heat the nebula to temperatures much higher than it currently is and so making it glow it visible light as the ultraviolet light will ionise the components of the nebula.
Currently however the low the ‘low’ temperatures within the nebula allow for the formation of compounds. ...