The Butterfly Nebula, captured by the HubbIe Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Kastner (RIT)

As delicate as the Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302, may look, its wings are churning and burning at 250,000˚C as it splits itself apart on an extremely short timescale.


NGC 6302, 3,800 lightyears away in Scorpius, was formerly a huge red giant, 1,000 times the diameter of the Sun.

Now in its dying phase, it is spewing out gas and dust as it rapidly casts off its outer layers.

The fate of the Butterfly Nebula may be similar to the fate of our own Sun. Find out what will happen when our Sun dies.


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Observatory Hubble Space Telescope
Release date 18 June 2020
Image credit NASA, ESA, and J. Kastner (RIT)


Jane Williamson science journalist and writer
Jane WilliamsonScience journalist

Jane Williamson is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Production Editor.