A team of astronomers discovered more details about what a star goes through in the final moments of its life through the help of the Hubble Space Telescope.
With the use of Hubble, experts were able to study NGC 6302–also known as the Butterfly Nebula that is around 2,500 to 3,800 lightyears away in the constellation of Scorpius as well as NGC 7027, which is around 3,000 lightyears away in the constellation of Cygnus and resembles a jeweled bug–two young planetary nebulae that are among the “dustiest” ones.
In the center of these nebulae are red giants that blasts off rapid changes in jets and gas bubbles, thus the “dusty” and chaotic look that Hubble was able to capture well.
The new study leader, Joel Kastner from the Rochester Institute of Technology, said no one had observed the nebulas before through the Wide Field Camera 3 of the Hubble Space Telescope in its full wavelength range, which is why he “was floored.”
“These new multi-wavelength Hubble observations provide the most comprehensive view to date of both of these spectacular nebulas. As I was downloading the resulting images,” he further said in a statement, even saying that it felt like he was a “kid in a candy store.”
Among what they have discovered through Hubble’s image is that both nebulas are splitting apart over an extremely short period of time.
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According to Futurism, Kastner and his team also believe that there were once two stars in the center of both nebulas that were dancing close to each other, which caused the dust of the cloud around them and what gave them their nicknames.
The team theorizes that as the stars are spinning around each other, the smaller of the two stars starts losing its mass, which the bigger one then absorbs.
Over time, the bigger of the two stars would have engulfed the smaller one, made even smaller because of gradually losing its mass, leading to a butterfly-pattern, similar to that of NGC 6302.
“The suspected companion stars in NGC 6302 and NGC 7027 haven’t been directly detected because they are next to, or perhaps have already been swallowed by, larger red giant stars, a type of star that is hundreds to thousands of times brighter than the Sun,” said Professor Bruce Balick from the University of Washington and co-author of the study.
Balick also said that so far, the theory of the merging stars is the best explanation as of yet and that it has no rivaling hypothesis.
The team studied NGC 6302 and NGC 7027 because while both are equally stunning, they are counterparts of each other,
In the case of the Butterfly Nebula, astronomers believe that the sun in its middle “spun like a spinning top about to fall,” while its counterpart, the Jewel Bug Nebula, something apparently went haywire in its center recently, creating the pattern it now has.
The team’s paper has been recently published in the journal Galaxies, further detailing the observations they have created through the help of the Hubble Space Telescope.
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