Eye In The Sky

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Behold; MyCn18, also known as the Engraved Hourglass Planetary Nebula.

Clearly seen at last, thanks to improved imaging techniques developed since it was first observed in the early decades of the 20th century . But who’s watching who exactly? To wit:

…the sands of time are running out for the central star of this hourglass-shaped planetary nebula. With its nuclear fuel exhausted, this brief, spectacular, closing phase of a Sun-like star’s life occurs as its outer layers are ejected – its core becoming a cooling, fading white dwarf. In 1995, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to make a series of images of planetary nebulae, including the one featured here. Pictured, delicate rings of colorful glowing gas (nitrogen-red, hydrogen-green, and oxygen-blue) outline the tenuous walls of the hourglass. The unprecedented sharpness of the Hubble images has revealed surprising details of the nebula ejection process that are helping to resolve the outstanding mysteries of the complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulas like MyCn 18.

(ImageNASAESAHubble; Processing & LicenseJudy Schmidt)

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7 thoughts on “Eye In The Sky

  1. Slightly Bemused

    I bet this kind of stuff really riles up astronomers. Can you imagine how much they can learn if they can train a telescope on something like this permanently? But they have to share with all the other riches the heavens can tell us, so the trading off of who gets to watch what must be incredible.

    I can just imagine one astronomer asking for Hubble to watch a particular star as he thought it was going critical and then nova, only to be denied as another nebula had gotten the calendar. Then when it does look back, the nova has happened. What could they have learned if the saw the moments of it happening?

    Astronomers must be great negotiators….

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