NGC 6326 is a planetary nebula with glowing wisps of outpouring gas that are lit up by a central star nearing the end of its life. NGC 6326 is located in the constellation of Ara, the Altar, about 11,000 light-years from Earth.
When a star ages and the red giant phase of its life comes to an end, it starts to eject layers of gas from its surface leaving behind a hot and compact white dwarf. Sometimes this ejection results in elegantly symmetric patterns of glowing gas, but NGC 6326 is much less structured. Planetary nebulae are one of the main ways in which elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are dispersed into space after their creation in the hearts of stars. Eventually some of this outflung material may form new stars and planets.
Image : ESA/Hubble and NASA