Astronomers have found the oldest planetary nebula in the galaxy

(ORDO NEWS) — The planetary nebula in the open star cluster M37 has been expanding for about 75,000 years, many times longer than these short-lived objects usually exist.

Toward the end of their evolution, small and medium-sized stars swell into red giants and then shed their outer shells.

A cloud of matter flies away from the white dwarf remaining in the center and radiates brightly, forming a planetary nebula.

Such objects have nothing to do with planets and got their name only for their external resemblance to planetary systems.

They look really impressive, and some pictures of planetary nebulae have become famous masterpieces of astrophotography.

Planetary nebula IPHASX J055226.2+323724 is the subject of a new article published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Interest in it is associated primarily with the rarity of the location: the nebula is located in the open cluster M37 (NGC 2099), a small group of about one and a half thousand stars in the constellation Auriga.

Several thousand planetary nebulae are known in our Galaxy, but only a few are associated with open clusters.

Analyzing the obtained spectra, Quentin Parker (Quentin Parker) and his colleagues from the University of Hong Kong found that J055226.2 + 323724 is an exceptional long-liver.

The clouds that form planetary nebulae tend to dissipate quickly and last between five thousand and 25 thousand years.

However, this nebula, according to astronomers, has been slowly expanding for about 70 thousand years in a row, reaching an exceptional magnitude of 3.2 parsecs – more than 10 light years.

The relatively calm environment of the nebula made it possible to determine the size of the original star, which, before shedding its outer shells, gained about 2.8 solar masses.

The scientists hope that their work will make it possible to more accurately estimate the ratio of the initial and final masses of stars making the transformation from red giants to white dwarfs.

Someday , our Sun will also make such a transition , and how well we imagine the future of the solar system depends on understanding its mechanisms.

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