Cool, huh? That’s the final death throes of a red giant carbon star. You can’t see the star. It’s a pixel in the center of that image. More about what’s going on under the jump.
Taken by the Hubble (yes, it’s still up there and still taking pictures), this is a star in Camelopardalis. It’s a rare carbon star, or a star that has more carbon than oxygen in its atmosphere. The carbon uses up the oxygen fairly quickly, and starts forming other carbon compounds, which is what makes up the outside corona you see in the picture. Since the star has a fairly low surface gravity, solar winds and its own forces eject massive clouds of gas and particles.
Obviously, the amount of light fired out of this thing is fairly intense on top of everything else. This star only has a few centuries left before it burns out. But until then, it’ll fire out spherical clouds of gas on a regular basis. Isn’t science neat?
image courtesy ESA/NASA