The Hourglass Nebula, otherwise known as MyCn 18, is a young planetary nebula that is just 8,000 light-years from Earth. This image from Hubble was the first to reveal MyCn 18’s true shape to be an hourglass with an intricate pattern of “etchings” in its walls. It is thought that the hourglass shape of MyCn 18 may be the result of “the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud, which is denser near its equator than near its poles.”
The Hourglass Nebula was featured on the cover of the April 1997 issue of National Geographic. Its unique shape led the editors to say, “Astronomers looked 8,000 light-years into the cosmos with the Hubble Space Telescope, and it seemed that the eye of God was staring back.” The appearance of an eye at its center isn’t fully understood.
Read more and download the image for yourself here: