This year's Hubble Halloween image is carbon star CW Leonis, a red giant with a spooky, ethereal appearance due to its being enshrouded behind a cloak of cosmic dust.

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Star CW Leonis lies about 400 lightyears away in the constellation Leo.

It's a glowing red giant star with a carbon-rich atmosphere, shedding its outer layers into space and, in the process, surrounding itself in a dense cloud of gas and dust.

The process begins when an ageing star starts to run out of the hydrogen fuel necessary to keep it going.

Once this happens, the star is no longer pushing outwards to counter the effect of its own gravity, and it begins to collapse in on itself.

A shell of plasma surrounding the star's core heats up and the star's outer layers expand into space, ejecting huge amounts of gas and dust as they do so.

In the case of CW Leonis, the effect is a bright orange glow piercing a thick layer of smoky fog, like some sort of cosmic jack-o-lantern shining through the autumn mist.

This image is the latest in a series of spooky cosmic images that are released each Halloween by NASA teams to mark the holiday and showcase the work of humanity's greatest observatories.

Previous years' releases have included a ghostly galactic collision, a cosmic Halloween pumpkin, a Jack-o-lantern nebula and a Halloween Sun.

If you're planning a Halloween party tonight, it's the perfect chance to do some autumnal stargazing (once the sparklers and fireworks have died down!). Find out what's in the night sky tonight or take our Halloween astronomy tour.

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And if you're staying in, read our pick of the best horror movies set in space.

Authors

Iain Todd, BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.

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