Chandra’s image of NGC 7027 represents the first detection of X-rays from
this young planetary nebula that is about 3,000 light years from Earth. A
bubble of 3 million degree Celsius gas with a length about a hundred times
that of our solar system is shown in the image. The image is brighter to the
upper right – the side of the nebula nearest the Earth – where there is less
obscuring material to block the X-ray emission.

NGC 7027 is the remains of a sun-like star that has ejected much of its mass
to expose its hot core. The X-rays are thought to be produced when a “fast”
wind from the hot core collides with the “slow” wind that was ejected
earlier during the star’s red giant phase. This collision heats the matter
to several million degrees so that it glows in X-rays.

Chandra data suggest that there is an overabundance of helium, carbon,
nitrogen, magnesium, and silicon present in NGC 7027. This is consistent
with theories that predict that planetary nebulae seed interstellar space
with “heavy” elements (that is, any element heavier than hydrogen and
helium) produced by nuclear reactions during the evolution of the star.

These observations were made by a team of scientists led by Joel Kastner of
the Rochester Institute of Technology.