How do stars like the Sun die?
At the end of its life, a star like the Sun grows into a red giant, pushing its gaseous mantle into space. Like the remaining central star, these planetary nebulae slowly fade over time.
Five billion years from now, the Sun will be a pulsating red giant star. Because of its tremendous size in this phase, the Sun’s gravity won’t prevent the outer layers from leaking away into space at velocities of many thousand km/h. In time, the Sun will be surrounded by an expanding nebula, heated by the ultraviolet radiation of the remaining stellar core. William Herschel coined the term “planetary nebulae” because in his telescope they looked like planetary discs.
Dying stars lose weight. At the end of their lives stars like the Sun blow their outer layers into space. The result: a spectacular, colourful nebula, surrounding a cooling white dwarf star.