Minkowski 2-9, also known as M2-9 or the Butterfly Nebula, is a planetary nebula located about 2,100 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus. This bipolar nebula has twin lobes of material that emanate from a central star. A double star is at the center of the nebula The primary component of the central binary is the hot core of a star that reached the end of its main-sequence life, ejected most of its outer layers and became a red giant, and is now contracting into a white dwarf. The second, smaller star of the pair orbits very closely and may have been swallowed by the large star’s expanding stellar atmosphere with the resulting interaction creating the nebula. The gravity of one star may be pulling some of the gas from the surface of the other and sending it into a thin, dense disk that could account for M2-9’s odd appearance.
Image Credit: NASA