Whenever a new type of instrument is used to examine the skies, surprises are guaranteed. And when the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) started scanning the heavens in 2010, it returned one amazing view after another. My favorite by far is this one
, showing NGC 1514, a dying star shedding material.
This image, in the far-infrared, is very different than optical shots of the nebula, which show it looking more like a disk. It's not certain just why this object has these two rings, but it's likely that dust ejected from the dying star is slamming into gas previously thrown off. That older gas is most likely in an hourglass shape, common in such objects. Perhaps the dust is hitting the inside of that hourglass figure, making the rings. Maybe it's a different reason entirely. We don't know!
And that makes me happy. Mysteries are fun, and new telescopes are bound to add to them, while solving others. WISE was designed to do a survey, which means it looked at anything and everything in the sky. A lot of what it found will have to be followed up with bigger telescopes. But until we get another powerful far-infrared telescopes, some of these weird objects will just have to wait to reveal their secrets.Get the higher-res version here. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA