A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood.
The pictures were snapped with the two infrared channels that still work at Spitzer's still-quite-chilly temperature of 30 Kelvin (about minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit). The two infrared channels are part of Spitzer's infrared array camera: 3.6-micron light is blue and 4.5-micron light is orange.