Hubble has revealed the true shape of the nebula, the glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sun-like star, the space agency reported Thursday.
The nebula's apparent ring shape is a result of perspective but the Hubble images show a more complex structure than astronomers once thought and have allowed them to construct the most precise 3-D model of the nebula.
The nebula appears to be a ring because the view from Earth is looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas, astronomers said.
"The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it's like a jelly doughnut, because it's filled with material in the middle," C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said.
O'Dell leads a research team that used Hubble and several ground-based telescopes to obtain the best view yet of the iconic nebula.
It will continue to expand for 10,000 years, a short phase in the lifetime of the star, the astronomers said, then will become fainter and fainter until it merges with the interstellar medium.
Salvation Army bell ringer assaulted for saying 'Happy Holidays'
Jennifer Lawrence: 'It should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV'