The Hubble Telescope has been the Earth’s most reliable source for space porn over the past quarter century. And the joint mission between NASA and the ESA is still delivering the celestial money shots today.
Case in point: The agencies just released a photo of a striking iridescent space butterfly (seen above) that has been slowly unfurling its gaseous wings for more than a millennium. The aptly named Twin Jet Nebula (or PN M2-9 if you’re a stickler for boring details) sits some 2,100 light-years away. This image shows twin plumes of gas expanding outside from a central star system at speeds in excess of 620,000 miles per hour.
The snapshot is a family portrait of a binary star system consisting of two stars nearing the end of their lifespan. The two expanding “wings” are the result of one of the stars having ejected much of its gaseous matter during its transformation into a white dwarf, while the other member of the system is still burning bright and has yet to make that final leap into stellar retirement.