Monday, August 15, 2011

Hubble Discovers Dazzling 'Necklace' Nebula!

You would think I would get tired after all these years of telling you how amazing Hubble is. But the truth is that Hubble keeps one upping itself with even more amazing astro-science and photographs. Case in point, the strange and amazing Necklace Nebula! What we see in the picture here is a composite from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 which captured the glow of hydrogen (here in blue), oxygen (the green glowing elements of the photo) and nitrogen (which when excited glows red). Hubble discovered this planetary nebula, which is the glowing remains of a Sun-like star. The bright ring, (measuring 12 trillion miles wide) dotted with bright clumps of gas and it is what caused these clumps to exist along with the complete glowing ring of gas and what causes the whole ring structure to exist and glow.

The core of the nebula shows only one bright orbit, but is in fact 2 stars. Instead of saying again what the NASA site has so well described - here from the article:
  • A pair of stars orbiting close together produced the nebula, also called PN G054.2-03.4. About 10,000 years ago one of the aging stars ballooned to the point where it engulfed its companion star. The smaller star continued orbiting inside its larger companion, increasing the giant’s rotation rate.
  • The bloated companion star spun so fast that a large part of its gaseous envelope expanded into space. Due to centrifugal force, most of the gas escaped along the star’s equator, producing a ring. The embedded bright knots are dense gas clumps in the ring.
  • The pair is so close, only a few million miles apart, they appear as one bright dot in the center. The stars are furiously whirling around each other, completing an orbit in a little more than a day.
Did you catch that? One of the companions went of main sequence and ballooned to such a degree that it's neighbor is orbiting INSIDE the other star! As the smaller companion spins the bigger faster it throws out material along the equator hence causing the "ring". Even now after all this, both continue to orbit each other, but so fast that a complete orbit is a little bit more than 1 Earth day! Is astronomy a wild science or what!!!!

You can read the complete article here

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