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Hubble’s Cosmic Holiday Wreath | by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
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Hubble’s Cosmic Holiday Wreath

Like a bright ornament in a holiday wreath, this bright star decorates its surrounding nebula with waves of light. This image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows RS Puppis, a Cepheid variable star which rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. Its average intrinsic brightness is 15,000 times greater than the Sun's luminosity.


The nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a "light echo." Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between Earth and the Moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that reflected light can actually be photographed crossing the nebula.


Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) – Hubble/Europe Collaboration; Acknowledgement: H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University)


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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


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Taken on December 17, 2013