NASA has recently released a magnificent image of a nebula that resembles a massive ant in space. As per the space agency, the gigantic cosmic body, which was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, took shape due to the death and explosion of a star that is incredibly similar to our Sun.
The massive object has been detected as being Menzel 3, which is usually referred to as the Ant Nebula because of its appearance. As depicted in the photo, the nebula looks like the head and thorax of a garden-range ant.
As per NASA, the Menzel 3 took shape after a star that was about as gigantic as the Sun has died. As the star approached the end of its life frame, it started peeling its outer layers. Ultimately, the object collapsed due to the weight of its own gravity, which resulted in massive stellar growth and explosion.
“The Hubble images directly challenge old ideas about the last stages in the lives of a star,” NASA explained. “By observing Sun-like stars as they approach their deaths, the Hubble Heritage image of [Menzel 3] – along with pictures of other planetary nebulae – shows that our Sun’s fate probably will be more interesting, complex, and striking than astronomers imagined just a few years ago.”
The Similarity Has no Explanation Yet
Even though Menzel 3 is labeled as a nebula, the fact that its explosion resembled an ant is an oddity, and the reason behind it is unknown. According to NASA, it is possible that the nebula’s star was part of a binary system that had a smaller neighbor.
View this post on Instagram
#HubbleClassic The Ant Nebula (also known as Menzel 3) resembles the head and thorax of a garden-variety ant. It's produced by a dying Sun-like star as it sheds its outer layers of gas. For more information on Hubble, follow the link in our bio. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)Acknowledgment: R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Lab) and B. Balick (University of Washington) #NASA #Hubble #space #science #astronomy #universe #telescope #cosmos #ant #nebula
As the smaller star rotated around it, it got eaten by the more massive object. Ultimately, as the main star blew off, so did the smaller star it swallowed. This may have conducted to the symmetrical pattern created by the nebula.
Another possible answer is that Menzel 3’s star produced powerful magnetic fields as it died. These magnetic fields could have engaged with the strong stellar winds generated by the star, making them create structures around the stellar body.
“These dense winds can be rendered visible by ultraviolet light from the hot central star or from highly supersonic collisions with the ambient gas that excites the material into florescence,” NASA stated.