Planetary Nebula

A bright cloud of dust and gas surrounding an old star, namely a red giant. Towards the end of its life the star ejects the dust and gas violently, losing most of its mass and becoming a white dwarf. The nebula disappears after approximately 100 000 years. They are called 'planetary' because originally astronomers thought they looked like planetary discs.

See also: Red Giant.

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Subjects: Physics