Image: Nebula with spiral arms

Image: Nebula with spiral arms
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Serge Meunier

The two spiral arms winding towards the bright centre might deceive you into thinking you are looking at a galaxy a bit like our Milky Way. But the object starring in this image is of a different nature: PK 329-02.2 is a 'planetary nebula' within our home galaxy.

Despite the name, this isn't a planet either. Planetary nebula is a misnomer that came about because of how much nebulas resembled giant, gaseous planets when looked through a telescope in the 1700s. Rather, what we see in this image is the last breath of a dying star.

When stars like the Sun are nearing the end of their lives, they let go of their gaseous outermost layers. As these clouds of stellar material move away from the central star they can acquire irregular and complex shapes. This complexity is evident in the faint scattered gas you see at the centre of the image. But there is also beautiful symmetry in PK 329-02.2, as the two bright blue spiral arms perfectly align with the two stars at the centre of the nebula.

It may look like the spiral arms are connected, but it is the stars that are companions. They are part of a visual binary, though only the one at the upper right gave rise to the nebula. While the stars will continue to orbit each other for millions or billions of years, the nebula – and its spiral arms – will spread out from the centre and eventually fade away over the next few thousands of years.

This with is also known as Menzel 2, after the US astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered it in the 1920s. It is located in Norma, a constellation in the Southern celestial hemisphere where you can also find Menzel 1 and 3, two 'bipolar planetary nebulas' (shaped like butterflies or hourglasses).

Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 captured this image, which was processed using green, blue, red and infrared filters. Astrophotography-enthusiast Serge Meunier entered a version of this image into the 2012 Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition.


Explore further

Hubble sees an aging star wave goodbye

Citation: Image: Nebula with spiral arms (2016, October 10) retrieved 17 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-10-image-nebula-spiral-arms.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
18 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 10, 2016
I'm getting really tired of the incorrect use of the word center. Most if not all writers incorrectly spell it as "centre" which is used to describe a large building or complex such as a "sports centre" or "centre for the arts" etc. In the statement "This complexity is evident in the faint scattered gas you see at the centre of the image" they used the word "centre" to say the middle of the nebula which should be correctly spelled as "center" in this case. These are two different words used for specific purposes but it seems most writers aren't very well versed on the difference.

Oct 10, 2016
I'm getting really tired of the incorrect use of the word center. Most if not all writers incorrectly spell it as "centre" which is used to describe a large building or complex such as a "sports centre" or "centre for the arts" etc. In the statement "This complexity is evident in the faint scattered gas you see at the centre of the image" they used the word "centre" to say the middle of the nebula which should be correctly spelled as "center" in this case. These are two different words used for specific purposes but it seems most writers aren't very well versed on the difference.


No; 'center' is the American spelling of what should properly be 'centre'.
http://dictionary...h/center

Oct 10, 2016
I'm getting really tired of the incorrect use of the word center.

This is an ESA article. They use UK english in their press releases (of course).

Oct 11, 2016
@KelDude - I'm getting really tired of the incorrect use of the word centre. Most if not all U.S. writers incorrectly spell it as "center"... along with "theater" for theatre, "gray" for grey and "aluminum" for aluminium.

I'm being a bit tongue in cheek here, Kel, but North American speakers of English should remember where the language originates from, and that their spelling variations are not used globally by all English speakers.

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