The Butterfly Nebula.

Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust.

This sharp and colorful close-up of the dying star’s nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, installed during the final shuttle servicing mission. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star’s dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius).

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble


Exploding Whale Carcasses

A beached whale is a very big (no pun intended) safety hazard. There are pretty much no effective and safe ways to dispose of it, and if it is left to rot there is a risk of a hefty explosion. As a whale decomposes, methane, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia gas build up inside the carcass, the internal organs liquefy, and the whale begins to blow up like a balloon. The skin and blubber layers also decompose and become thinner and thinner. If the whale is left to decompose, one of two things will happen: either the gas will find a small leak in the skin and will gradually deflate, or the skin will suddenly rupture, causing a violent explosion.

Sometimes people try to use explosives to detonate the whale before it gets too inflated, although this can be far messier than the natural alternative (, and trying to open the whale has proven to be quite dangerous (

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