From NASA // August 26, 2018
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4,900 light-years from Earth
(NASA) – This dramatic NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the NGC 3918 planetary nebula, a luminous cloud of colorful gas in the Centaur constellation, some 4,900 light-years from Earth.  In the middle of the gas cloud, which is completely overshadowed by the fog, are the dying remains of a red giant. During the last convulsive phase in the evolution of these stars, huge clouds of gas are expelled from the surface of the star before it emerges from its cocoon as a white dwarf.
The intense ultraviolet radiation of the tiny rest star then causes the surrounding gases to glow like a fluorescent sign. These extraordinary and colorful planetary nebulae are among the most dramatic sights in the night sky and often have strange and irregular shapes that are not fully explained yet.
NGC 3918's distinctive eye-like shape with a light inner gas envelope and a more diffuse outer shell that is far from the mist, looks like it could be the result of two separate gas leaks. But that's actually not the case: studies of the object suggest that they were formed at the same time, but are being blown off the star at different speeds. It is estimated that the powerful gas jets emanating from the ends of the large structure shoot away from the star at speeds of up to 350,000 kilometers per hour.
By the standards of astronomical phenomena planetary nebulae like NGC 3918 are very short-lived and have a lifespan of tens of thousands of years.
The image is a mix of visible and near-infrared snapshots taken with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.
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