ESA/NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope made several stunning photos of a butterfly-shaped nebula located 2,100 light-years away. The details on the images allowed scientists to learn more about the nebula and the star system at its center.
The Twin Jet Nebula, scientifically dubbed PN M2-9, was spotted in the constellation Ophiuchus, northwest of the visible center of the Milky Way. The nebula is an amazing sight since two clouds of gases stretch from both its side into a form that closely resembles a multicolored butterfly.
The cosmic butterfly is made of two large “wings” and a bright “body” and it is considered to be just 1,200 years old. The body of the butterfly is in fact a star system containing two suns orbiting each other.
Scientists explained that the clouds of gas which make up the wings are in fact material ejected by one of the stars. Astronomers learned that of the stellar pair, the largest star is quickly fading away. In the process, its core became brighter than usual, while its atmosphere or outer layers of gas were ejected in empty space.
The event led to the formation of the cosmic butterfly due to special circumstances. Nebula experts explained that because the dying star is orbited by its smaller companion, a white dwarf, the gases were not ejected into a single direction, but two.
The phenomenon also led to the formation of a dense disc of material around the two suns. Although the disc is 15 times wider than Pluto’s orbit, it is still too small to be captured by Hubble’s optical instruments.
Hubble imagery also shows two blue patches at the core of the nebula. Those patches are in fact two super violent jets of matter released by the fading sun. The ‘Twin Jet Nebula’ moniker was a reminder of those jets. The matter gets ejected so fast within the core of the nebula that it can reach speeds of up to one million km per hour, scientist explained.
What’s more, researchers found that the two lobes forming the nebula’s colorful wings would further stretch in the coming century. By calculating their current size and speed of extension, they were able to estimate that the nebula is not older than 1,200 years.
The Twin Jet Nebula, was first discovered by Rudolph Minkowski, a German astronomer whose last name’s initial letter was used in the nebula’s scientific moniker. The letters P and N in PN-M2 stand for ‘planetary nebula.’
Image Source: Wikipedia
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