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Boomerang Nebula


This image of the Boomerang Nebula was taken in 1998 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 instrument. Keith Taylor and Mike Scarrott called it the Boomerang Nebula in 1980 after observing it with a large ground-based telescope in Australia. Unable to see the detail that only Hubble can reveal, the astronomers saw merely a slight asymmetry in the nebula's lobes suggesting a curved shape like a boomerang. The high-resolution Hubble images indicate that 'the Bow Tie Nebula' would perhaps have been a better name. It shows faint arcs and ghostly filaments embedded within the diffuse gas of the nebula's smooth 'bow tie' lobes. The diffuse bow-tie shape of this nebula makes it quite different from other observed planetary nebulae, which normally have lobes that look more like 'bubbles' blown in the gas. However, the Boomerang Nebula is so young that it may not have had time to develop these structures. Why planetary nebulae have so many different shapes is still a mystery.



The general bow-tie shape of the Boomerang appears to have been created by a very fierce 500,000 kilometer-per-hour wind blowing ultracold gas away from the dying central star. The star has been losing as much as one-thousandth of a solar mass of material per year for 1,500 years. This is 10 to 100 times more than in other similar objects.


Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Sahai and J. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the WFPC2 Science Team

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