Photo: NASA/ESA/J. Kastner (RIT)

Pulling back the layers of dust and gas surrounding a planetary nebula can reveal an object's history to scientists on Earth, light-years away.

The big picture: This new photo of the planetary nebula NGC 7027 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the object had been puffing out layers of gas in spiral or spherical patterns for hundreds of years, but that's not the case anymore.

  • “Something recently went haywire at the very center, producing a new cloverleaf pattern, with bullets of material shooting out in specific directions,” one of the authors of a new study about the nebula Joel Kastner said in a statement.
  • That change likely has something to do with a difference in how the two stars at the center of the nebula interact with one another.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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