Hubble Space Telescope has taken a stunning image of PN M2-9, which was first discovered in 1947 by Rudolph Minkowski. The Twin Jet Nebula looks like a galactic butterfly unfolding its wings. The image captured by Hubble Space Telescope shows its knots of expanding gas in striking detail. This bipolar nebula is located about 4,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus.
The two stars orbit each other every 100 years
PN M2-9 has two dying stars at its center, whose masses are similar to that of our Sun. The larger of them has 1.0 to 1.4 solar masses, while its smaller companion has been reduced to a white dwarf of about 0.6 to 1.0 solar masses. You could see iridescent lobes of material moving outwards from the star system. Two jets of gas within these lobes stream through either side of the nebula at speeds of 620,000 miles per hour. The jets change their orientation as they are pulled by the wayward gravity of the binary system.
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The European Space Agency (ESA) said that the two stars circle each other every 100 years. And the interaction between the two is the cause of the “wings” of the butterfly. Scientists said when a white dwarf orbits its partner star, the ejected gas from the dying star doesn’t expand as a uniform sphere. Instead, the ejected gas is pulled into two lobes.
Hubble Space Telescope had also taken an image in 1997
Scientists measured the expansion of the nebula’s wings and concluded that the nebula was formed just 1,200 years ago. A single planetary nebula usually appears like a ball of gas surrounding a star. But this twin star system has astronomers debating whether there must be two stars to have bipolar nebulae.
The dying stars themselves add to the havoc. While circling its larger partner, the white dwarf strips gas from its companion, which forms a giant disc of material around the stars. This disc can reach as far as 15 times the orbit of Pluto, reports CBS News. The Hubble Space Telescope had previously taken an image of the Twin Jet Nebula in 1997. But the new one includes observations from Hubble’s Space TelescopeImaging Spectrograph.