NewsNew theory on what causes the enigmatic Mariposa Nebula to have a...

    New theory on what causes the enigmatic Mariposa Nebula to have a changing shape

    This celestial body is located at a distance of 3,400 light years from Earth and has a wingspan of more than three light years.

    During their participation in the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held in Seattle (USA) between January 8 and 12, scientists from the University of Washington unveiled the latest theory on how the NGC 6302 nebula, also known as the Butterfly Nebula, it got its peculiar shape.

    This nebula, located at a distance of 3,400 years light from Earth, has a wingspan of more than three light-years, and is ejecting layers of gas from a centrally located dying star.

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    However, unlike most of these types of celestial bodies, which describe a circular shape, NGC 6302 is under the influence of a second star, causing the ejected material to expand into a pair of nebular lobes or ‘wings’. .

    “The Butterfly Nebula is extreme in the mass, velocity, and complexity of its ejecta from its central star, whose temperature is more than 200 times hotter than the Sun, and yet it is only slightly larger than Earth,” said Bruce Balick, who is leading the research.

    What causes the nebula to have a changing shape?

    By comparing a series of high-quality images of the Mariposa Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope 11 years apart, the academics were able to determine the lobes’ growth rates and patterns.

    As detailed in their conference, they discovered that the ‘wings’ of the nebula were fed by about 1,400 years of six jets that spewed a series of asymmetric flows. While the outer parts of the nebula are expanding rapidly, at around 800 kilometers per second, the one closest to the central star is expanding at a tenth of that speed.

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    As experts have hypothesized, the star at the center of the nebula, hidden by dust and debris, could have merged with a companion star or drawn material from a nearby star, creating complex magnetic fields and generating the jets, which when crossing with each other they form “disorderly” structures and irregular growth patterns.

    However, they pointed out, the multipolar and changing interior structure of NGC 6302 is not easy to explain with existing models of the formation and evolution of planetary nebulae. “At the moment, these are all just hypotheses,” Balick said, noting that these could be confirmed with infrared images from the James Webb telescope.

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    Source: RT

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