This is an image of the newly-discovered Red Square nebula, detailed in last week's issue of the journal Science. A nebula is an interstellar cloud of gas, plasma, and dust. At the heart of the Red Square nebula is a dying star identified as MWC 922. This infrared image was taken at Palomar and Keck Observatories (Credit: Peter Tuthill). Apparently, the Red Square is one of the most symmetrical objects ever spotted by astronomers. From Space.com:
“If you fold things across the principle diagonal axis, you get an almost perfect reflection symmetry,” said study leader Peter Tuthill from the University of Sydney in Australia. “This makes the Red Square nebula the most symmetrical object of comparable complexity ever imaged.” The Red Square’s extreme symmetry suggests the star’s surroundings are extremely still and not buffeted by external stellar winds or other turbulence...The new findings suggest the system’s perfect form results from an even outflow of gas. “The reason the Red Square remains so symmetrical is that there is no material that has interfered with the outflow, so it has preserved the symmetry it was born with,” (said researcher James Lloyd of Cornell University).