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Astronomers say the discovery is one the most remarkable examples of a planetary nebula ever seen.
It also proves a long-debated theory about what controls the spectacular and symmetric appearance of the material flung out into space.
When a star with a mass up to eight times that of the Sun approaches the end of its life, it blows off its outer shells and begins to lose mass, the researchers say
This allows the hot, inner core of the star to radiate strongly, causing this outward-moving cocoon of gas to glow brightly as a planetary nebula.