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What is the astronomical term for coloured ring crossword clue?

Welcome, reader! Today we will be exploring the intriguing crossword clue “What is the astronomical term for coloured ring?” Solving tricky crossword puzzles requires clever thinking, research skills, and sometimes a bit of outside-the-box creativity. Stick with me as we unravel the meaning behind this cryptic astronomical clue step-by-step.

First, let’s break down the question word by word:

“What” indicates this is asking for a specific term or phrase as the answer.
“Astronomical” means relating to astronomy, the scientific study of celestial objects like stars, planets, and galaxies.
“Coloured ring” seems to describe some sort of ring-shaped object that has color.

So we need to find an astronomical phenomenon that manifests as a colorful ring shape. There are a few possibilities that come to mind, which we will explore in more detail throughout this article.

Getting straight to the point – the answer is “planetary nebula.” But let’s walk through how we can arrive at that solution in a clear, methodical way.

Analyzing the Clue

Let’s first brainstorm some astronomical objects, events or concepts that could be described as a “coloured ring” based on the question:

– Planetary rings – Rings around planets like Saturn’s rings
– Nebulas – Cloudy regions of space emission or light
– Supernovas – Explosions at the end of a star’s life
– Galactic collisions – When galaxies pass through each other
– Einstein rings – Circular image distortion of light from gravity
– Exoplanet transits – A planet crossing in front of its star

Of these, “planetary rings” seem the most obvious choice. But planetary rings are more diffuse collections of dust and debris, not a singular solid ring.

Nebulas emerge as another top contender. These interstellar clouds of dust and gas often appear colorful and ring-shaped from our vantage point. Let’s explore nebulas further.

Key Facts About Nebulas

Term Definition
Nebula A large cloud of dust and gas in interstellar space, visible due to emission, reflection or absorption of light.
Emission nebula A nebula formed of ionized gases that emit light.
Reflection nebula A nebula that reflects light originating from nearby stars.
Planetary nebula A type of emission nebula formed when a dying star ejects its outer layers, creating a gaseous shell that looks like a ring.
Supernova remnant A nebula structure created after a supernova explosion.

There are several main types of nebulas, as outlined in this table. Let’s go through each one to determine if it fits the “colored ring” clue:

Emission Nebulas

Emission nebulas contain hot ionized gases like hydrogen and helium that glow across different wavelengths of light when energized. Many appear as large glowing clouds of color like the Orion Nebula and the Eagle Nebula. The gases often form interesting shapes but not quite a singular ring.

Reflection Nebulas

Reflection nebulas are clouds of dust and gas that primarily reflect light from nearby stars instead of emitting their own light. They often appear blue due to scattering shorter wavelength blue light but have irregular cloudy shapes.

Supernova Remnants

Supernova remnants are nebulas that form after a star explodes in a supernova. They frequently have ring-like shell structures from the outward expanding gases. A famous example is the Crab Nebula, which has a complex filamentary structure.

Planetary Nebulas

Planetary nebulas emerge from dying low-mass stars, like our Sun. In a star’s final stages, it sheds its outer layers to form an expanding glowing shell of gas around the stellar core. This surrounding nebula often appears as a distinct ring or elliptical shape. Famous examples include the Ring Nebula and the Owl Nebula with their defined ringed structures.

Based on the distinct ring-shaped morphology, a planetary nebula seems the most likely candidate fitting the crossword clue. Let’s explore more about their origins and properties.

Planetary Nebulas Origin and Characteristics

Property Description
Cause Created when a low-mass star ejects its outer layers late in its life cycle, forming a gaseous nebula shell around the stellar core.
Shape Often appear as rings, halos, ellipses or bipolar lobes due to expansion and density patterns.
Size Typically 0.1-1 light years in diameter.
Temperature Can reach over 10,000 K at the center.
Composition Consists of ionized gases like hydrogen, helium, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur.
Lifetime Tens of thousands of years before dissipating into space.
Color Often glow with red, blue, green, yellow and orange hues from ionized gases.

As highlighted in this table, planetary nebulas match the crossword clue hints perfectly:

– They form glowing ring or elliptical structures as the star’s ejected gases expand into space.
– The ionized gases produce colorful hues across the electromagnetic spectrum.
– They originate from the end stages of low-mass stars like our Sun, making them an astronomical phenomenon.

Notable examples like the Ring Nebula showcase the distinctive colorful ring shape. Next let’s explore some famous planetary nebulas and their unique properties.

Famous Examples of Planetary Nebulas

There are hundreds of planetary nebulas observable with telescopes from Earth. Some of the most striking and well-studied examples include:

Ring Nebula

  • One of the most famous planetary nebulas, discovered in 1779.
  • Located 2,000 light years from Earth in the Lyra constellation.
  • Has a distinctive elliptical ring shape spanning 1 light year.
  • Ring structure comes from interactions between the stellar wind and ejected gas.
  • Glows with blue-green luminescence from ionized oxygen.

Owl Nebula

  • Planetary nebula located in the Ursa Major constellation, 2,630 light years away.
  • Two large eye-like rings of gas create a distinctive owl-like appearance.
  • Temperature estimated around 25,000 K at the center.
  • Unusual structure formed by ejections from the central star at different times.
  • Glows with blue-green and red emission from oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

Cat’s Eye Nebula

  • Located in Draco, approximately 3,000 light years from Earth.
  • Features a bright central star surrounded by complex nested gas shells.
  • Concentrated emission near the core and fainter outer regions resembling a cat’s eye.
  • Contains knots likely formed by stellar wind interactions.
  • Radiates primarily red hydrogen emission, with some oxygen green and nitrogen blue.

Helix Nebula

  • Gaseous planetary nebula in Aquarius about 655 light years from us.
  • Earned the moniker “Eye of God” for its distinctive twisted helix shape.
  • One of the nearest and therefore best studied planetary nebulas.
  • Strong emission from doubly ionized oxygen produces green color.
  • Structure formed from the interactions of the stellar winds.

These examples showcase the diversity of shapes, colors, sizes and complex structures found in planetary nebulas. Next let’s summarize the key evidence affirming why “planetary nebula” is the correct crossword clue answer.

Summary of Evidence Supporting “Planetary Nebula”

Based on our extensive exploration, there are several definitive reasons why “planetary nebula” is the correct astronomical term for the “colored ring” crossword clue:

  • Planetary nebulas form glowing ring or elliptical structures as the dying star ejects its outer layers.
  • Their gaseous composition emits colorful hues like red, green, blue and purple that are visible with telescopes.
  • They originate from old low-mass stars like our Sun, making them an astronomical phenomenon.
  • Famous examples like the Ring Nebula and Owl Nebula showcase the distinct ring shape.
  • No other astronomical object or phenomenon fits the description of a singular colored ring quite like a planetary nebula.

The unique ring morphology and colorful emission make planetary nebula the perfect fit for this crossword clue. While other nebula types and astronomical phenomena were considered, the evidence clearly points to planetary nebula as the intended solution.


In summary, we have conducted an extensive exploration of the cryptic crossword clue “What is the astronomical term for coloured ring?” By analyzing the question, brainstorming possibilities, researching key facts, and evaluating examples, we deduced that the answer is unequivocally “planetary nebula.”

Planetary nebulas form as dying stars eject their outer layers, creating colorful glowing rings and ellipses visible through telescopes. Their distinctive shapes and astronomical origins make them the prime candidate for this clue. After weighing all the evidence, I hope you now feel confident that “planetary nebula” is the correct and satisfying solution to this crossword puzzle. Let me know if you have any other tricky science or astronomy clues you’d like help solving!