NASA’s Hubble Telescope has captured an extraordinary picture of a butterfly nebula. This phenomenon occurs when a large star that is slowly dying and is surrounded by a large amount of dust is also accompanied by a tinier star. In this case a small white dwarf star was the one that created the effect of two shimmering wings.
The butterfly nebula is called Twin Jet Nebula and is also known as PN M2-9. Scientists believe that shape that resembles wings was created by the binary stars which orbit the common mass and are fueled by two huge gas jets that have a speed of 621,400 mph. researchers estimate that the butterfly nebula was created approximately 1.200 years ago.
In fact this nebula was seen before as well, but now the image was clearer. The Twin Jet Nebula was spotted for the first time in 1947 when it received the name PN M2-9. The nebula got the name of “Jet Nebula” because it reflects its shape. The European Space Agency (ESA) explains that the nebula is sliced across the star and each half looks like exhausts from jet engines. The M from the PN M2-9 name stands for Rudolph Minkowski, the astronomer who discovered the butterfly nebula. PN stands for planetary nebula.
The multitude of colors visible in the picture is a proof of how complex the nebula is. It glows due to the fact that larger star that is dying has shed its outer layers. Thus, with the help of the white dwarf’s orbit the nebula reveals a core which illuminates the surroundings and what is happening there.
Another butterfly nebula was spotted in June by a research team led by Pierre Kervella, from the European Southern Observatory in Chile. He, together with his team, is trying to find out how the butterfly nebula evolved. They are struggling to find out how the stars release their payload of metals into space. Knowing how this phenomenon occurs is very important since that material is involved in producing planetary systems in the future.
According to Kervell how the butterfly nebula comes to exist is one of the most controversial problems of modern astrophysics.
Image Source: Space Telescope