The Butterfly Nebula


butterfly_hstThis is NGC 6302 (aka The Butterfly Nebula). It is approximately 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion). With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 °C, the dying central star of this planetary nebula shining brightly in ultraviolet light, but it’s hidden from direct view by a dense doughnut-shaped cloud of dust. This close-up of the nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope‘s Wide Field Camera 3 which was installed during the final shuttle servicing mission. The dust torus (the doughnut) surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Click on the image to embiggen it.

Image Credit: NASA

M2-9


The Twin Jet NebulaMinkowski 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

A Butterfly in the Sky


m2d9_hubble_985What happens when a star dies? In the case of low-mass stars like our Sun and M2-9 pictured above, such stars transform themselves into white dwarfs by throwing off their outer gaseous envelopes. The expelled gas often forms a planetary nebula that fades away over thousand of years. M2-9 is a butterfly planetary nebula 2100 light-years away. There are two stars orbiting inside the central gaseous disk 10 times larger than the orbit of Pluto. The expelled gas of the dying star breaks out from the disk in a bipolar pattern.

Image Credit: NASA

The Butterfly Nebula


butterfly_hstThis is NGC 6302 (aka The Butterfly Nebula). It is approximately 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion). With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 °C, the dying central star of this planetary nebula shining brightly in ultraviolet light, but it’s hidden from direct view by a dense doughnut-shaped cloud of dust. This close-up of the nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope‘s Wide Field Camera 3 which was installed during the final shuttle servicing mission. The dust torus (the doughnut) surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Click on the image to embiggen it.

Image Credit: NASA