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When German astronomer William Herschel spotted this gassy remnant of a dying star through his telescope in 1787, it looked like a personís head enshrouded in a furry parka hood. For that reason, astronomers call it the Eskimo Nebula.
We can sort of see it. But thanks to images like this one, taken in 2000 by the Hubble Space Telescope , scientists have confirmed that the Inuit-in-the-sky theory was bunk. That furry sphere of yellow and gold is made of clouds of gas, not fur. Astronomers think those gasses once composed the outer layers of a sun-like star that died about 10,000 years ago.
During winter, the Eskimo Nebula can be seen high in the sky in the early evening in the Northern Hemisphere. At about 3,000 light years away (fairly close-by, in astronomical terms), the orange bubble of gas is bright in modern telescopes.
Courtesy Andrew Fruchter (STScI) et al., NASA.