The photo is from the NASA website and depicts the Helix Nebula. According to Snopes the nebula is not that colorful in real life. The photo is actually a composit of 9 different photographs of the nebula. Here's another photo of the same nebula, also from the NASA website.
This is NASA's description of what is occurring:
One day our Sun may look like this. The Helix Nebula is the closest example of a planetary nebula created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies 450 light-years away towards the constellation of Aquarius and spans 1.5 light-years. The above image was taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) located atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii, USA. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows unusual gas knots of unknown origin.
So the real explanation may not be as "feel-good" as the urban legend floating around the web. Sorry, no matter what you've read, sending the photo to seven people on your email list won't bring you luck. But if you're willing to contemplate the wonder of a planetary star in entropy, it's truly magnificent.
I was struck by this image for another reason. It is an example of replicated geometries. It is not accidental that certain cardinal shapes recur throughout our reflective reality. "Sacred geometry," which pertains to the architecture of matter, ascribes significance to certain forms. This is why we see them in so many sacred symbols. The shapes themselves demonstrate the geometric requirements of manifest form.
The eye shape is sacred to many cultures. The variously attributed "Eye of Ra" or "Eye of Horus" in ancient Egypt is one example.
Legends and images of eyes permeate both mythology and superstition and with all manner of magical attributions. The evil eye is common to the folklore which has been disseminated outward from Mediterranean cultures. I've known many Greek and Italian Americans who wore a single disembodied eye in jewelry and on key chains; protection from the evil eye.
Every US dollar bears the "Eye of Providence." In the orignal sketches for the Great Seal, it was a single disembodied eye floating over a truncated pyramid, surrounded by a "glory." In its final form it was encapsulated in a triangle, reminiscent of the Egyptian benben; an icon of manifestation.
The "eye," then, captures our imagination in a way that few forms do. The geometry of the eye, with its alternations of spherical and vesica pisces shapes, tells the story of manifest creation. In sacred geometry the sphere represents the unity from which all manifestation springs. The vesica pisces, or almond shape, occurs when spheres overlap sheres. It is the shape of cell division, when one becomes two. That duality and oppostion makes possible the wave form out of which all things generate. Robert Lawlor explains in his book Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and practice.
The idea of the unknowable Unity at the beginning has been the basis of many philosphies and mythological systems. While Shakhara, with the Buddhism of a certain period, posited the void as a fundamental assumption, the main stream of Hinduism has always rested on the notion of the One, the Divine, who divided himself within himself to form his own self-created opposite, the manifested universe. Within the divine self-regard, three qualities of himself became distininguished: Sat (immobile being), Chit (consciousness-force) and Ananda (bliss). The original unity, represented by a circle, is then restated in the concept of the Real-Idea, the thought of God, which the Hindus called the bindu or seed, what we call the geometrical point. The point, according to the Shiva Sutra Vimarshini Commentaries, forms the limit between the manifest and non-manifest, between the spatial and the non-spatial. The bindu corresponds to the 'seed-sound idea' of the Tantras. The Divine transforms himself into sound vibration (nada), and proliferates the universe, which is not different from himself, by giving form or verbal expression to this self-idea. Ramakrishna summarized the scripture by saying, 'the Universe is nothing but the Divine uttering his own name to himself.'
Thus the universe springs forth from the Word. This transcendent Word is only a vibration (a materialization) of the Divine thought which gives rise to the fractioning of unity which is creation. The Word (saabda in Sanskrit, the logos of the Christians and Gnostics), whose nature is pure vibration, represents the essential nature of all that exists. Concentric vibrational waves span outward from innumerable centres and their overlappings (interference patterns) form nodules of trapped energy which become the whirling, fiery bodies of the heavens. The Real-Idea, the Purusha, the inaudible and invisible point of the sound-idea remains fixed and immutable. Its names, however, can be investigated through geometry and number. This emitted sound, the naming of God's idea, is what the Pythagoreans would call the Music of the Spheres.
Seeing the Eye of God, then, is not a once in a lifetime opportunity, seen through a telescope. We see the Eye of God everytime we look into the eyes of another, or into our own eyes in a mirror. For "God is an infinite sphere whose circumference is everywhere and whose center is nowhere."