Stars are rather patient. They can live for billions of years, and they typically make slow transitions — sometimes over many millions of years — between the different stages of their lives.
So when a previously typical star’s behavior rapidly changes in a few decades, astronomers take note and get to work.
Such is the case with a star known as SAO 244567, which lies at the center of Hen 3-1357, commonly known as the Stingray Nebula. The Stingray Nebula is a planetary nebula — an expanse of material sloughed off from a star as it enters a new phase of old age and then heated by that same star into colorful displays that can last for up to a million years.
The tiny Stingray Nebula unexpectedly appeared in the 1980s and was first imaged by scientists in the 1990s using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It is by far the