NASA has released a picture of a nebula captured by the Hubble Space Telescope that looks like a deep space tunnel. The nebula is made up of the outer layers of a dying star called HD 44179, which has been shedding them for about 14,000 years.

The star appears to be similar to the Sun, but it is dying and emitting gas and other material, giving it a unique shape. The star is encircled by a spectacular structure known as the Red Rectangle, so named because of its shape and apparent colour when viewed from Earth.

The nebula, however, appears to be an "X" with spaced lines of glowing gas separated by rungs when captured by the Hubble telescope.

“The Red Rectangle Nebula, or HD 44179, was named because of its unique shape and colour when seen through ground-based telescopes. But when captured by Hubble, the Red Rectangle was revealed to have more of an “X” shape,” explains NASA.

“This dying star has been shedding its outer layers for about 14,000 years, producing the nebula around it,” it adds.

‘This nebula shines like a beacon in our Milky Way’, NASA captioned the picture.

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The Red Rectangle Nebula is located approximately 2,300 light-years from Earth, in the Monoceros constellation, which means "unicorn" in Latin. It can be found in the northern sky.

According to NASA, the Red Rectangle nebula will likely bloom into a planetary nebula in a few million years as one of the central stars becomes more depleted of nuclear fuel.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the Red Rectangle was discovered during a rocket flight in the early 1970s, when astronomers were looking for strong sources of infrared radiation.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched jointly by ESA and NASA. Prior to Hubble's discovery of the nebula's complex X-shape, astronomers Martin Cohen and Mike Merrill coined the name "Red Rectangle" in 1973.

The light of the Red Rectangle nebula is peculiar, and its composition is philosophical fodder. The X-shape indicates that something is preventing the star's atmosphere from expanding uniformly, which is why it is still a hot topic of research.

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