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Hubble telescope captures stunning image of planetary nebula

The Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 has captured a striking image of a lumpy nebula in the constellation Camelopardis, a.k.a. "The Giraffe."

NGC 1501 formed when a massive star shed its outer layers, sending plasma into space. Scientists noted that the nebula is unusual because the star is in the core of the nebula's cloud. The unusual star led to the nebula's nickname, the "Oyster Nebula," for its pearl-like appearance.

(Facebook.com/NASA)

The nebula is 5,000 light-years away from Earth and was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel. Its star has long puzzled astronomers, because it pulsates in brightness over timescales of 30 minutes. NASA notes that it is uncommon to find variable stars at the heart of planetary nebulae.

The scientists don't yet know why the planetary nebula appears so lumpy, but it may be tied to "how violently the star blew away its outer envelope of plasma," according to Discovery News.