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The picture appears to show a bight nucleus surrounded by two stellar bodies known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372. Astronomers who first studied the “dark, gloomy scene” were confused by the image, assuming they were looking at two separate bodies. However, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), a closer look at the image revealed astronomers were studying not two but one stellar object. The illusion of two objects is created by so-called planetary nebulas surrounding the glowing core of a dying star. 

ESA, which operates Hubble with NASA, said: “This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini – the Twins. 

“The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied – rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure.” 

The stellar bodies were separately dubbed NGC 2371 and NGC 2372 although astronomers sometimes referred to them as NGC 2371/2. 

What astronomers were really looking at were the remains of dying star that has exploded and shed its outer layers. 

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ESA, which operates Hubble with NASA, said: “This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini – the Twins. 

“The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied – rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure.” 

The stellar bodies were separately dubbed NGC 2371 and NGC 2372 although astronomers sometimes referred to them as NGC 2371/2. 

What astronomers were really looking at were the remains of dying star that has exploded and shed its outer layers. 

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Despite what their name might suggest, planetary nebulas have nothing to do with planets. 

The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied

European Space Agency (ESA)

Instead, they are named after the circular shape they take on. 

In this case, the nebulas appeared when the star at the centre of the Hubble picture violently ejected its outer layers. 

ESA said: “The two lobes are visible to the lower left and upper right of the frame and together form something known as a planetary nebula. 

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“Despite the name, such nebulas have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind. 

“This remnant is visible as the bright star at the centre of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes.” 

According to the space agency, the region of space seen here is incredibly complex. 

The photo shows “dense knots of gas” and fast-moving jests that change direction over time. 

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On either side of the remnant star are expanding clouds of stellar material. 

The glowing patches of light in the photo are ablaze with the energetic radiation of the remnant star. 

The radiation excites the stellar gas, causing certain regions to light up. 

ESA said: “This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years.

"Eventually, the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf.” 


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