Planetary Nebula Menzel 2 in Final Stages of Life Cycle

Two white dwarfs shed outer layers of mass to form winding blue clouds of hot gas

This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky. It is also sometimes referred to as Menzel 2, or Mz 2, named after the astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered the nebula in 1922. When stars that are around the mass of the Sun reach their final stages of life, they shed their outer layers into space, which appear as glowing clouds of gas called planetary nebulae. The ejection of mass in stellar burnout is irregular and not symmetrical, so that planetary nebulae can have very complex shapes. In the case of Menzel 2 the nebula forms a winding blue cloud that perfectly aligns with two stars at its centre. In 1999 astronomers discovered that the star at the upper right is in fact the central star of the nebula, and the star to the lower left is probably a true physical companion of the central star. For tens of thousands of years the stellar core will be cocooned in spectacular clouds of gas and then, over a period of a few thousand years, the gas will fade away into the depths of the Universe. The curving structure of Menzel 2 resembles a last goodbye before the star reaches its final stage of retirement as a white dwarf. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Serge Meunier.
This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky.

Space news (October 16, 2015) – light-years away in the southern constellation Norma –

First discovered during modern times by noted astronomer Donald Menzel in 1922, planetary nebula PK 329-02.2 or Menzel 2 (Mz 2), is composed of a central star and companion sun cocooned in stunning, hot clouds of glowing gas ejected in complex shapes that will fade into the cosmos over the next few thousands of years.

Astrophysicists believe the star at the upper right of the two central stars shining brightly in this Hubble image is the main star of planetary nebula PK 329-02.2. The star just to the lower left of this central star astronomers believe is the companion sun, which is gravitationally tied to the main star.

Over tens of thousands of years, this pair of stars is expected to be cocooned in stunning clouds of hot, glowing gas. Swirling clouds forming a goodbye wave as the main star enters the final stages of its life cycle and starts to enjoy retirement as a white dwarf star

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A Brief Moment in Cosmic Time

Tens of thousands of human years in length

A dying star’s final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star’s demise is still quite lengthy by our standards, lasting tens of thousands of years! The star’s agony has culminated in a wonderful planetary nebula known as NGC 6565, a cloud of gas that was ejected from the star after strong stellar winds pushed the star’s outer layers away into space. Once enough material was ejected, the star’s luminous core was exposed and it began to produce ultraviolet radiation, exciting the surrounding gas to varying degrees and causing it to radiate in an attractive array of colours. These same colours can be seen in the famous and impressive Ring Nebula (heic1310), a prominent example of a nebula like this one. Planetary nebulae are illuminated for around 10 000 years before the central star begins to cool and shrink to become a white dwarf. When this happens, the star’s light drastically diminishes and ceases to excite the surrounding gas, so the nebula fades from view. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures basic image competition by contestant Matej Novak.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Matej Novak
Text credit: European Space Agency

Space news (August 14, 2015) – planetary nebula NGC 6565; 6 degrees off center of the Milky Way, 15,200 light-years toward constellation Sagittarius, about halfway to the central core 

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of a dying star during the final moments of its life cycle. Lasting tens of thousands of years on human time scales, the death of this star is but a brief moment in cosmic time.

Called planetary nebula NGC 6565, Hen 2-362 or ESO 456-70, depending on the space institute or astronomer you ask, this object will eventually shrink down to become a white dwarf star. 

Similar to the color display to the well-known Ring Nebula (heic 1310), the stunning cloud of colorful gas seen here was ejected from the dying star due to strong stellar winds pushing the outer layers into space. The luminous core viewed was exposed in the process, which allowed ultraviolet radiation to excite the surrounding gas to different temperatures, producing this visually attractive display of color. 

NASA scientists study planetary nebula like NGC 6565 to better understand the life cycle and death of stars that end their lives as white dwarf stars. The data obtained through the study of this planetary nebula will be added to the material already obtained concerning similar stellar objects. This will help astrophysics develop better ideas and theories concerning the life of stars that end their days as white dwarf stars.

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