A team of researchers from Chile, France and the United States has recently discovered a cosmic butterfly in the constellation Puppis with the help of European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Very Large Telescope (VLT).
The images show a great level of detail, suggesting that the butterfly nebula is going through metamorphosis, and the scientific community is hopeful that studying them will help answer questioned that have long puzzled astronomers – details about the orientation and formation of these nebulas. It is the youngest such nebula to have ever been discovered.
The cosmic butterfly illusion is in reality caused by dust spit out of a dying star. The dust spit extends outward and is manipulated by a stellar companion to form the shape of a bipolar planetary nebula that has symmetrical wings, which from the outside makes it look like a butterfly made out of stars and gases.
Even tough scientists still know very little abut this type of phenomenon, they feel confident saying that the transition is just starting out in this case, and they hope that studying the cosmic butterfly further will provide them with valuable inside.
The dying star mentioned above is L2 Puppis, an old red giant star and one of the closest to planet Earth. It sits at a distance of roughly 200 light years away, in the constellation Puppis. It has a mass range of one to three (1 to 3) solar masses, a luminosity that surpasses that of our Sun’s by somewhere between 1.500 and 2.400 times, and surface that gives off a temperature of 5.660 degrees Fahrenheit (3.127 degrees Celsius)
The researchers, led by Dr Pierre Kervella of the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, say that the dust surrounding L2 Puppis is arranged in the shape of a disc that starts at approximately 550 million miles, (900 million kilometers).
Using their Very Large Telescope, which takes images that are three (3) times sharper than those taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the astronomers have also spotted another, smaller light source that sits at about 300 million kilometers from L2 Puppis. The second object is believed to be another red giant star, albeit a slightly lower in mass and much younger one. It orbits the dying L2 Puppis once every few years.
Pierre Kervella, lead author and doctor at the Unidad Mixta Internacional Franco-Chilena de Astronomía in France, gave a statement informing that “The origin of bipolar planetary nebulae is one of the great classic problems of modern astrophysics, especially the question of how, exactly, stars return their valuable payload of metals back into space — an important process, because it is this material that will be used to produce later generations of planetary systems”.
He went on to add that since the companion star is orbiting dying L2 Puppis only once every few years, the researchers expect to see how this younger star will continue to shape the dying star’s disk. He is overjoyed that he and his team will be able to follow the evolution of the dust features in real time, which he stresses is an extremely rare and exciting prospect.
Along with L2 Puppis’s dust disc, the researchers also found two (2) cones that rise out on the disc perpendicularly. The cones themselves aren’t remarkable, but witching them, the team found two (2) plumes of material that are slowly curving. One is most likely the result of the interaction between L2 Puppis and its companion start, while the other is believed to have arisen due ti the collision of stellar winds coming from the two (2) giant stars.
Image Source: sci-news.com