Hubble Space Telescope recently captured a mesmerizing space butterfly about 2,100 light-years away from our planet in the constellation Ophiuchus. Astronomers explained that the amazing space formation is actually the Twin Jet Nebula also known as PN M2-9.
The images show in striking detail the bright center of the nebula and two huge clouds of material that emerge from the center and make up the butterfly’s ‘wings.’ Hubble researchers explained that the gas clouds were emitted by an extremely bright and active star system located at the center and the material within the clouds can reach speeds of up to 621,000 miles per hour (or one million kilometers per hour).
PN-M2 was first discovered in the 1950s by German astronomer Rudolph Minkowski. The ‘M’ in the nebula’s scientific name stands for its discoverer’s last name while ‘PN’ is an abbreviation for “planetary nebula.”
Scientists explained that the lobes or the “wings” of the butterfly-shaped nebula emerged from a dying old star of low to medium size. While dying, the star was stripped off of its outer layers, and its core became excessively bright. Currently the dying star is at the center of an impressive cosmic light show but it is not alone.
Astronomers explained that PN M2-9 is not a simple planetary nebula. It is a bipolar planetary nebula with a pair of stars at its core. Both stars are nearly as heavy as our Sun is, but one star is larger in size than its companion.
The larger star is also dying and it has ejected its atmosphere into space forming the beautiful twin lobes. The smaller star, which is a white dwarf has yet to complete its life cycle.
Scientists, however, were puzzled by the form of the nebula. Usually, a dying star ejects its outer layers as a single jet or stream of gas and particles. In PN M2-9’s case, that jet takes the shape of twin wings because of the special features of the star system. Astronomers believe that those lobes are formed while the small white dwarf orbits its dying companion.
Hubble team also noted that the nebula’s wings are still expanding. Scientists were able to estimate the age of the nebula to 1,200 years by calculating the rate of expansion of its lobes.
But PN M2-9 was dubbed The Twin Jet nebula because of the twin jets that emerge at dizzying speeds from its core. The jets are two subtle blue patches near the nebula’s core. Yet, they stream into space at speeds that ca reach 621,000 miles per hour.
Image Source: Wikipedia