New Hubble image of the Twin Jet Nebula

August 26, 2015, ESA/Hubble Information Centre
The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9, is a striking example of a bipolar planetary nebula. Bipolar planetary nebulae are formed when the central object is not a single star, but a binary system, Studies have shown that the nebula's size increases with time, and measurements of this rate of increase suggest that the stellar outburst that formed the lobes occurred just 1200 years ago. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASAAcknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

The shimmering colours visible in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image show off the remarkable complexity of the Twin Jet Nebula. The new image highlights the nebula's shells and its knots of expanding gas in striking detail. Two iridescent lobes of material stretch outwards from a central star system. Within these lobes two huge jets of gas are streaming from the star system at speeds in excess of one million kilometres per hour.

The cosmic butterfly pictured in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image goes by many names. It is called the Twin Jet Nebula as well as answering to the slightly less poetic name of PN M2-9.

The M in this name refers to Rudolph Minkowski, a German-American astronomer who discovered the nebula in 1947. The PN, meanwhile, refers to the fact that M2-9 is a planetary nebula. The glowing and expanding shells of gas clearly visible in this image represent the final stages of life for an old star of low to intermediate mass. The star has not only ejected its outer layers, but the exposed remnant core is now illuminating these layers - resulting in a spectacular light show like the one seen here. However, the Twin Jet Nebula is not just any , it is a bipolar nebula.

Ordinary planetary nebulae have one star at their centre, bipolar nebulae have two, in a binary . Astronomers have found that the two stars in this pair each have around the same mass as the Sun, ranging from 0.6 to 1.0 solar masses for the smaller star, and from 1.0 to 1.4 solar masses for its larger companion. The larger star is approaching the end of its days and has already ejected its outer layers of gas into space, whereas its partner is further evolved, and is a small white dwarf

The characteristic shape of the wings of the Twin Jet Nebula is most likely caused by the motion of the two central stars around each other. It is believed that a white dwarf orbits its partner star and thus the ejected gas from the dying star is pulled into two lobes rather than expanding as a uniform sphere. However, astronomers are still debating whether all bipolar nebulae are created by binary stars. Meanwhile the nebula's wings are still growing and, by measuring their expansion, astronomers have calculated that the nebula was created only 1200 years ago.

This video pans over NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations of the Twin Jet Nebula. The elongated form of this planetary nebula is caused by two stars in its centre, orbiting each other. Credit: NASA & ESA

Within the wings, starting from the star system and extending horizontally outwards like veins are two faint blue patches. Although these may seem subtle in comparison to the nebula's rainbow colours, these are actually violent twin jets streaming out into space, at speeds in excess of one million kilometres per hour. This is a phenomenon that is another consequence of the binary system at the heart of the nebula. These jets slowly change their orientation, precessing across the lobes as they are pulled by the wayward gravity of the binary system.

The two stars at the heart of the nebula circle one another roughly every 100 years. This rotation not only creates the wings of the butterfly and the two jets, it also allows the white dwarf to strip gas from its larger companion, which then forms a large disc of material around the , extending out as far as 15 times the orbit of Pluto! Even though this disc is of incredible size, it is much too small to be seen on the image taken by Hubble.

An earlier image of the Twin Jet Nebula using data gathered by Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 was released in 1997. This newer version incorporates more recent observations from the telescope's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS).

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition, submitted by contestant Judy Schmidt.

Explore further: Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

Related Stories

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Hubble view of a nitrogen-rich nebula

June 29, 2015

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a planetary nebula named NGC 6153, located about 4,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion).

Hubble image: Stormy seas in Sagittarius

July 30, 2015

Some of the most breathtaking views in the Universe are created by nebulae - hot, glowing clouds of gas. This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the centre of the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil ...

Image: The ghost of a dying star

August 5, 2015

This extraordinary bubble, glowing like the ghost of a star in the haunting darkness of space, may appear supernatural and mysterious, but it is a familiar astronomical object: a planetary nebula, the remnants of a dying ...

Image: A hubble cosmic couple

August 24, 2015

Here we see the spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427—more commonly known as WR 124—and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it. Both objects, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are found in the ...

Image: Hubble captures the Butterfly Nebula

October 13, 2014

Many celestial objects are beautiful – swirling spiral galaxies or glittering clusters of stars are notable examples. But some of the most striking scenes are created during the death throes of intermediate-mass stars, ...

Recommended for you

New bright high-redshift quasar discovered using VISTA

December 18, 2018

Using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), astronomers have detected a new bright quasar at a redshift of about 6.8. The newly identified quasar, designated VHS J0411-0907, is the brightest object ...

Mystery of coronae around supermassive black holes deepens

December 18, 2018

Researchers from RIKEN and JAXA have used observations from the ALMA radio observatory located in northern Chile and managed by an international consortium including the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) to ...

NASA's 1st flight to moon, Apollo 8, marks 50th anniversary

December 18, 2018

Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve, a tumultuous year of assassinations, riots and war drew to a close in heroic and hopeful fashion with the three Apollo 8 astronauts reading from the Book of Genesis on live TV as they orbited ...

5 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Expiorer
not rated yet Aug 26, 2015
the video was great
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 26, 2015
Ah yes, the hourglass shape. It's a pinched Birkeland Current.

http://electric-c...xies.pdf
ddkj003
not rated yet Aug 26, 2015
Are both stars within the diamond-shaped bright spot at the center?
Enthusiastic Fool
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 28, 2015
@bschott

I feel like some vector calculus would be in order to show that a magnetic field nearly half a parsec in diameter can be generated by these objects in the above configuration as a stable structure. Otherwise it seems you are just making shit up. The article's proposition that this is the product of jets of material shaped by precession seems more likely than a gigantic magnetic field producing a standing wave.
evropej
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 28, 2015
Interesting image and as usual too many many people pretending to be astrophysicist on blogs or comment sections.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.