We came across NASA’s massive archive of space photography a few months back doing some research (as we mentioned here).

Earlier today, NASA reposted this shot via their Instagram account (yes, they have an Instagram account), shared earlier via the White House’s Instagram account (yes, they have an Instagram too).

As NASA explains in the photo write-up:

This composite of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope gives astronomers a new look for NGC 6543, better known as the Cat’s Eye nebula. This planetary nebula represents a phase of stellar evolution that our sun may well experience several billion years from now.

When a star like the sun begins to run out of fuel, it becomes a red giant. In this phase, a star sheds some of its outer layers, eventually leaving behind a hot core that collapses to form a dense white dwarf star. A fast wind emanating from the hot core rams into the ejected atmosphere, pushes it outward, and creates the graceful filamentary structures seen with optical telescopes.

In the case of the Cat’s Eye, material shed by the star is flying away at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. The star itself is expected to collapse to become a white dwarf star in a few million years.

Coooooooooool. Again, we highly recommend both NASA’s image archives and image of the day series. Science fans and art fans alike will doubtless appreciate these images.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI