NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has managed to amaze us on several occasions and the new image presenting amazing details of the Twin Jet Nebula is as good as it gets. Resembling a butterfly with its wings spread out, the nebula is accompanied by its knots of expanding gas.
Hubble’s picture shows the central star system irradiating two large lobes of material expanding on both sides. Inside the lobes, great jets of gas leave the star system at astonishing speeds reaching up to 620,000 miles an hour.
Known by scientists as PN M2-9, the nebula isn’t new, as Rudolph Minkowski had discovered it in 1947, lending the letter M to the name. And because the M2-9 is planetary nebula, the name also includes the initials PN.
The beautiful image is the result of an old star living its final stages of life, which cause the gas to form huge and glowing shells around the star. Having a low to intermediate mass, the star has already reached the stage where its outer layers have been burned out, a phase where the exposed remnant core is the cause of the rainbow of colors surrounding the star.
The Twin Jet Nebula is extra-special in the scientific circles because it’s not like the other ordinary planetary nebulae: this one is called a bipolar nebula, meaning the system is made up of two stars. According to astronomic measurements, each of the stars is approximately the mass of our Sun, one slightly smaller than the other.
Astronomers believe the butterfly-like wings might be the result of the motion that exists between the two central stars. The most common theory is that the system consists of a white dwarf that orbits its partner star. Consequently, instead of expanding as a uniform sphere, the gas ejected from the dying star forms the two lobes.
Scientists have also concluded that the nebula’s wings are still growing, and if you examine Hubble’s picture closer, two blue patches can be noticed that represent the twin jets streaming from the system’s core.
The rotation movement also causes the ejected gas to form a large visible disc of material around the stars, measuring 15 times more than the orbit of Pluto.
The Twin Jet Nebula was previously seen in a picture sent by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 back in 1997. The image released this week offers more fascinating details of the star system, allowing astronomers to establish that its no older than 1,200 years.
Image Source: YouTube