Smoke signals in space

The hazy and aptly named Fine Ring Nebula, shown here, is an unusual planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae form when some dying stars, having expanded into a red giant phase, expel a shell of gas as they evolve into white dwarfs. Most planetary nebulae are either spherical or elliptical in shape, or bipolar (featuring two symmetric lobes of material).

But the Fine Ring Nebula — captured here by the ESO Faint Object Spectrograph and Camera mounted on the New Technology Telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile — looks like an almost perfect circular ring. Astronomers believe that some of these more unusually shaped planetary nebulae are formed when the progenitor star is actually a binary system. The interaction between the primary star and its orbiting companion shapes the ejected material.

The stellar object at the centre of the Fine Ring Nebula is indeed thought to be a binary system, orbiting with a period of 2.9 days. Observations suggest that the binary pair is almost perfectly face-on from our vantage point, implying that the planetary nebula’s structure is aligned in the same way. We are looking down on a torus (doughnut shape) of ejected material, leading to the strikingly circular ring shape in the image.

Planetary nebulae are shaped by the complex interplay of many physical processes. Not only can these celestial objects be admired for their beauty, but the study of precisely how they form their striking shapes is a fascinating topic in astronomical research.

This image was made using multiple filters: light observed through B and O-III filters is shown in blue, V is shown in green, R is shown in orange, and H-alpha in red. The image is approximately 200 arcseconds across.

Källa:

ESO

Om bilden

ID:potw1131a
Typ:Observation
Publiceringsdatum:1 augusti 2011 10:00
Storlek:1702 x 1702 px

Om objektet

Namn:Fine Ring Nebula
Typ:Milky Way : Nebula : Type : Planetary
Avstånd:2500 ljusår
Constellation:Norma
Kategori:Nebulae

Bildformat

Stor jpeg
617,2 kB
Skärmstor jpeg
159,4 kB

Zoombar


Skrivbordsunderlägg

1024x768
155,9 kB
1280x1024
268,1 kB
1600x1200
439,1 kB
1920x1200
485,8 kB
2048x1536
650,7 kB

Koordinater

Position (RA):15 51 40.96
Position (Dec):-51° 31' 28.74"
Field of view:3.41 x 3.41 arcminutes
Orientering:Nord är 0.1° höger om lodrätt

Färger och filter

BandTeleskop
Synligt ljus
B
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Synligt ljus
Oiii
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Synligt ljus
V
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Synligt ljus
R
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2
Synligt ljus
H-alpha
New Technology Telescope
EFOSC2