The Cosmic Butterfly of Death
News from Discovery News:
Two dying stars are in a dance of death in this spectacular image of the Twin Jet planetary nebula.
The butterfly shape is created by the stellar ballet of the two sun-like stars at the end of their lives.
The primary star of this binary system is now a red giant, between 1.0 and 1.4 times the mass of the sun. It’s blowing away its outer gaseous envelope to expose its stellar core and will eventually contract into a white dwarf.
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The other star is already a white dwarf – a slowly cooling stellar corpse – between 0.6 and 1.0 times the mass of the sun.
The white dwarf is orbiting very close to the primary star and may even have been engulfed by the other’s expanding stellar atmosphere with the resulting interaction creating the nebula.
The pair orbit each other every 100 years, and astronomers think the gravity of one star is pulling ejected material from its binary companion and twisting it into two thin iridescent lobes which are stretching far out into space.
The lobes are still growing, and by measuring their rate of expansion, scientists have calculated that the nebula was created about 1200 years ago.
A planetary nebula is effectively a huge expanding shell of gas.
T……………. continues on Discovery News
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