• The Chandra X-ray Observatory captured an image of a nebula
  • The nebula's shape resembles a floating spare tire in space
  • The nebula was created by a star that's about to die

NASA released a beautiful photo of a nebula that looks like a spare tire. According to the agency, the nebula is currently growing at an impressive rate.

The image of the nebula, which has been identified as IC 5148, was taken by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The nebula is located about 3,000 light-years from Earth and lies within the constellation Grus, also known as The Crane.

IC 5148 is a planetary nebula that was first discovered by Australian astronomer Walter Gale in 1894. According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), IC 5148 was created by a massive star that’s nearing the end of its life.

In the image taken by Chandra, the bright star can be spotted at the center of the nebula. The ESO noted that this star is more massive than the Sun. As it nears death, it begins to shed off layers from its outer surface. The interaction between the surrounding cosmic materials and the star’s emission led to the formation of the massive nebula.

“When a star with a mass similar to or a few times more than that of our Sun approaches the end of its life, its outer layers are thrown off into space,” the ESO explained in a statement. “The expanding gas is illuminated by the hot remaining core of the star at the center, forming the planetary nebula, which often takes on a beautiful, glowing shape.”

According to the ESO, IC 5148 is still growing. Astronomers said that the nebula is currently expanding at a rate of 50 kilometers per second.

Based on Chandra’s photo, IC 5148 has grown into a spherical nebula. Due to its overall shape and central hope, the massive cosmic structure resembles a giant spare tire floating in space. Its resemblance with a tire becomes even more apparent especially when viewed through a small telescope.

“When observed with a smaller amateur telescope, this particular planetary nebula shows up as a ring of material, with the star — which will cool to become a white dwarf — shining in the middle of the central hole,” the ESO stated. “This appearance led astronomers to nickname IC 5148 the Spare Tire Nebula.”

IC 5148
IC 5148 is a beautiful planetary nebula located some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Grus (The Crane). ESO