Astronomers figure out how the Butterfly Nebula got ‘wings’

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers have figured out how the Butterfly Nebula got its shape. This was reported by the press service of the University of Washington.

Most planetary nebulae are roughly circular in shape, but some look like hourglasses or wings. One such object is the Butterfly Nebula.

Most likely, this shape arises from the presence of a second star that orbits the parent star of the nebula.

Due to its gravity, the material expands into a pair of lobes or “wings”. It is believed that these “wings” grow over time, but do not change shape.

However, a new study has shown that this is not the case with the Butterfly Nebula.

Astronomers compared images of the object from the Hubble telescope in 2009 and 2020 and saw dramatic changes in the material inside the wings.

“The Butterfly Nebula is extreme in mass, velocity and complexity in its ejections from a central star that is more than 200 times warmer than the Sun but only slightly larger than Earth,” said team leader Bruce Balik, a University of Science and Technology associate. Washington.

In total, about half a dozen “jets” have been found – beginning about 2,300 years ago and ending 900 years ago – carrying material in a series of asymmetric streams.

Material in the outer parts of the nebula moves rapidly, at about 700 kilometers per second, while material closer to the hidden central star expands much more slowly, at about a tenth of that speed.

The paths of the jets intersect with each other, forming “random” structures that grow inside the wings.

The complex, rapidly changing internal structure of the nebula is not easily explained using existing models for the formation and development of planetary nebulae, the scientists say.

The star at the center of the nebula, obscured by dust, could merge with a companion star or pull material away from a nearby star, creating complex magnetic fields and generating jets.

For a final answer about the reasons for the unusual internal structure of the nebula, astronomers plan to observe it using the James Webb telescope.

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