“It turns out that the nebula is shaped like a distorted doughnut. We are gazing almost directly down one of the poles of this structure, with a brightly coloured barrel of material stretching away from us.
Although the centre of this doughnut may look empty, it is actually full of lower-density material that stretches both towards and away from us, creating a shape similar to a rugby ball slotted into the doughnut’s central gap.
The brightest part of this nebula is what we see as the colourful main ring. This is gas thrown off by a dying star at the centre of the nebula. This star is on its way to becoming a white dwarf — a very small, dense and hot body that is the final evolutionary stage for a star like the Sun.”