Hubble space telescope captures star 'going haywire' as it dies
This image from the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 6302, commonly known as the Butterfly Nebula (Getty)
The Hubble Space Telescope has taken incredible pictures of two planetary nebulae, huge gas and dust clouds in space, illuminated by explosions of dying stars.
Previous research has shown that our sun could one day become a planetary nebula in its death struggles in billions of years.
The new images show two nearby planetary nebulae, NGC 6302, called Butterfly Nebula, and NGC 7027.
The chaotic explosions of hot gas show that NGC 7027 has recently "got mixed up" and a new shamrock pattern is shining in the middle, the researchers said.
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The Hubble team writes: “As nuclear fusion motors, most stars live a quiet life for hundreds of millions to billions of years.
"But towards the end of their lives, they can turn into crazy eddies and blow off shells and hot gas jets."
The Hubble imagery could allow researchers to understand the rapid changes in the jets and gas bubbles that pop out of the stars in the center of these nebulae.
"These new multi-wavelength Hubble observations provide the most comprehensive view of these two spectacular nebulae to date," said study leader Joel Kastner from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"When I downloaded the resulting images, I felt like a kid in a candy store."
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The images show in detail how both nebulas split up in extremely short periods of time, so that astronomers can observe changes in the past decades.
The researchers suspect that two stars orbited around each other in the heart of each nebula.
The bizarre forms of these nebulae are proof of such a central “dynamic duo”.
Each has a pinched, dusty waist and polar lobes or drains, as well as other, more complex symmetrical patterns.
This image from the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 7027 or the 'Jewel Bug' nebula
NGC 6302, commonly known as Butterfly Nebula, has a distinct S-shaped pattern, which is shown in reddish-orange in the image.
The researchers believe that the S-shaped pattern is created by simply ionized iron atoms in collisions between different winds within the nebulae.
"This is very rare to see with planetary nebulae," said team member Bruce Balick of the University of Washington at Seattle. "It is important that the picture of the iron emission shows that fast off-axis winds like tsunamis penetrate far into the fog and obliterate earlier ones." Lumps on their way and only leave long tails of rubble. "
Hubble's picture of NGC 7027 shows that it has slowly blown away its mass in centuries ago until a relatively short time ago in calm, spherical or perhaps spiral patterns.
"Recently something got mixed up in the middle, which created a new cloverleaf pattern in which material balls were shot in certain directions," said Kastner.
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