Images of two iconic planetary nebulae made by Hubble Space Telescope reveal new information about how they develop their dramatic features. Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Green Bank Observatory presented new discoveries about the Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302) and the Jewel Bug Nebula (NGC 7027) at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Friday, January 15, 2021.
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 monitors the nebulae in 2019 and early 2020, using its full panchromatic capabilities, and the astronomers involved in the project are using images of emission lines from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared light to learn more about their properties. The studies are the first of its kind for panchromatic imaging studies designed to understand the formation process and test patterns of planetary nebula formation ruled by binary stars.
“We’re dissecting them,” said Joel Kastner, a professor at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and the School of Physics and Astronomy. “We can see the effect of the dying central star in how it spills and shreds its discarded material. We now see where the material the central star has ejected is dominated by ionized gas, where cooler dust dominates, and even how hot gas is ionized, whether by the UV star or by collisions caused by the present, fast winds. “
Kastner said analysis of new HST images of the butterfly nebula confirmed that the nebula was only ejected about 2,000 years ago – flashing by astronomical standards – and found that the S-shaped emission of iron that helps give it “wings” “Gas is even younger. Surprisingly, they found that while astronomers previously believed they had positioned the central star of the nebula, this previously identified star was not actually associated with the nebula and was instead much closer to Earth than the Butterfly Nebula. Kastner said he hopes future research with James Web Space Telescope can help find the real dying star in the heart of the nebula.
The Jewel Bug team’s ongoing analysis is based on 25-year measurements dating back to Hubble’s early imagery. Paula Moraga Baez, a doctor of astrophysics and technology at DeKalb, Ill., Called the nebula “remarkable for its unusual juxtaposition of circularly symmetric, axisymmetric, and point-symmetric (bipolar) structures.” Moraga noted, “The nebula also traps large masses of molecular gas and dust, although it has a hot central star and shows high states of excitation.”
Jesse Bublitz ’20 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology), who is now a PhD student at the Green Bank Observatory, expanded the analysis of the NGC 7027 team with radio images from the Northern Elongated Millimeter Array (NOEMA) telescope, from which he identified molecular tracking of the effects of ultraviolet and X-ray light. continues to change the chemistry of the nebula. Combined observations from telescopes with other wavelengths, such as Hubble, and bright CO + and HCO + molecules from NOEMA show how different regions of NGC 7027 are affected by high-energy radiation from its central star.
“We are very excited about these findings,” Bublitz said. “We hoped to find a structure that clearly showed CO + and HCO +, spatially coinciding or entirely in distinctive regions, which we did. This is the first map of NGC 7027 or any planetary nebula in the CO + molecule and only the second map of CO + of any astronomical source. “
Meeting: 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society
In addition to Kastner, Moraga, and Bublitz, the research team involved in the HST imaging work includes Rodolfo Montez Jr. ’10 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology) by Harvard-Smithsonian CfA; Bruce Balik from University of Washington; as well as Adam Frank and Eric Blackman of the University of Rochester. Bublitz’s international team of associates for radiomolecular imaging at NGC 7027 includes Kastner, Montez Jr., and astrophysicists from Spain, France, and Brazil.