Can I at least get it printed on a skirt, please?
Pictured above is NGC 6818, also known as the Little Gem Nebula, which is located 6,000 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius. It's not newly discovered, but it's given a major makeover in this new image, thanks to some new color filters. At half a light year across, it's huge compared to us -- but tiny for a nebula. Just days ago we gawked at the Southern Owl Nebula, which is eight times bigger than the little gem.
Need a refresher on planetary nebulae? They've got nothing to do with planets. They're so named for their round (ish) shapes.
When a star is at the tail-end of its time as a red giant, it throws its gases off into space, forming a loose sphere around the star's smaller, white giant self. The star's exposed core ionizes the gases, which gives them brilliant color. After just a few tens of thousands of years -- a blip in the star's lifespan, which lasts billions and billions -- the gases will have all oozed out into space, leaving the tiny white dwarf behind as it continues to die.
Scientists believe that NGC 6818's irregular shape and brightness is being sculpted by powerful stellar winds from its host star. Particles being shot off of the white dwarf collide with the slower gasses forming the nebula, and those crashes cause particularly bright regions of the gem.
A version of the image was submitted to NASA by Judy Schmidt as part of the Hubble's Hidden Treasures competition, where folks at home can comb through the archives to find little hidden gems like this one.