NGC 3576 It’s a humble little cloud located in our galaxy’s Sagittarius arm, and shares the Carina constellation with the bipolar star system Eta Carinae, approximately seventy-five hundred light-years from our planet. NGC 3576 has also been called the Statue of Liberty Nebula, because of an evocative shape near its center.
This bubble-like nebular region has many names. Formally, it’s called Kronberger 61 (Kn 61 for short), but it is also known as the Soccer Ball Nebula (for obvious reasons).
After its initial discovery, there was some debate as to whether Kn 61 was a planetary nebula or something else. Its designation wasn’t confirmed until much later, when a group of amateur researchers from the Deep Sky Hunters (DSH) community spearheaded an initiative for telescope time to be used to study the exact patch of sky in which it resides, The region, previously known to harbor just three nebulae of this type, can be found in the constellation of Cygnus.
Its pretty color is less impressive —from a scientific point of view, anyway—to its spherical shape, which is a rarity when it comes to planetary nebulae. Astronomers have long debated how such structures form, and since they are so rare, some surmise that circular nebulae require primary and secondary companion stars (think binary star systems). Of course, one of the stars would need to be similar in size to the Sun (the threshold is set at around 8 solar masses), but the secondary star could, in theory, be any size (perhaps an incredibly large planet could have the same effect).
Ultimately, Kn 61’s appearance—like the layered filaments surrounding the central star—can be chalked up to ionization, specifically emission coming from its twice-ionized oxygen content (it provides the nebula with its color). The filaments, on the other hand, are all that remain of the star’s gaseous envelope. As the star approached the end of its life, its gas content was expelled via solar winds, and the ultraviolet radiation eroded the material into the hollow shells we see here.
Eventually, the remainder of gas will dissipate, leaving only a stellar remnant behind. This object, called a white dwarf, is comparable in size to Earth, but with the mass of a Sun-like star.
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“Any life form that originates from Earth, is necessarily created by the same stellar matter. Everything around us is stellar matter. Our bodies are stellar matter. There could be no life without the death of stars. We are the children of these deceased stars.”
To celebrate the Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th anniversary on Friday, NASA released this Hubble view of young stars flaring to life. To capture the image, Hubble peered through the dust surrounding a stellar nursery in in the constellation Carina.
It’s stars versus dust in the Carina Nebula and the stars are winning. More precisely, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Located in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, these pillar’s appearance is dominated by the dark dust even though it is composed mostly of clear hydrogen gas. Dust pillars such as these are actually much thinner than air and only appear as mountains due to relatively small amounts of opaque interstellar dust. About 7,500 light-years distant, the featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, digitally reprocessed by an industrious amateur, and highlights an interior region of Carina which spans about three light years. Within a few million years, the stars will likely win out completely and the entire dust mountain will be destroyed.
Explanation: Some stellar nebulae are strangely symmetric. For example, every major blob of gas visible on the upper left of NGC 5307 appears to have a counterpart on the lower right. This picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope was released last week. NGC 5307 is an example of a planetary nebula with a spiral shape. Spiral planetary nebulae are thought to be caused by a bright central white dwarf star expelling a symmetricwobbling jet of rapidly moving gas. It takes light about 10,000 years to reach us from NGC 5307, and about 6 months just to go from one side to the other. In contrast, light takes only about 8 minutes to reach Earth from the Sun.
The lovely, symmetric planetary nebula cataloged as MWP1 lies some 4,500 light-years away in the northern constellation Cygnus the Swan. One of the largest planetary nebulae known, it spans about 15 light-years. Based on its expansion rate the nebula has an age of 150 thousand years, a cosmic blink of an eye in the 10 billion year life of a sun-like star. But planetary nebulae represent a very brief final phase in stellar evolution, as the nebula’s central star shrugs off its outer layers to become a hot white dwarf. In fact, planetary nebulae ordinarily only last for 10 to 20 thousand years. As a result, truly ancient MWP1 offers a beautiful challenge to astronomers studying the evolution of its central star.
Here’s the continuation of yesterday’s gallery, in which we see what there is too see in the North American and Pelican Nebulae before heading off to the Elephant’s Trunk.
First, a couple shots on approach to the nebulae (they’re very close, <50Ly apart i think)
Next some snaps of the stunningly beautiful colours from inside the nebulae:
It’s fantastic having these vivid colours filling up more than half your screen. It’s one of the main reasons to visit nebulae when you’re exploring.
Unfortunately there weren’t very many interesting planets or stellar objects inside the nebulae but I got a few nice ones as I was leaving:
Here are some shots from inside planetary rings:
(Very interesting iron-red kind of colour)
Surprise ammonia planet:
You can see the Elephant’s Trunk nebula to the left and NGC 7822 to the right. If you look closely you’ll see that NGC 7822 has some pinkish nebulaeic clouds around it - even though the stars inside were visible long before!
And I’ll conclude this post with a pic of me flying into the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula:
(At this point, we’re about ~2000Ly from populated space!)
A stunning image of a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars, called Westerlund 2, which lies approximately 20,000 light-years away from Earth. This image was officially selected by NASA to commemorate the 25th anniversary since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, on April 24, 1990. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science…
The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. Many of the stars are among the most massive known. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun. These hefty stars are destined to become supernovae in a few million years.
This image, taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the stars’ birth and evolution. It was taken at infrared wavelengths (1.1 microns and 1.6 microns). Hubble sees through the dusty nebula, revealing many stars that cannot be seen in visible light. The large bright star just above the center of the image is in the 30 Doradus nebula. The Hubble observations of 30 Doradus were made October 20-27, 2009.