ALMA Telescope Reveals Ghostly Shape of the Boomerang Nebula

Posted on October 25, 2013

ALMA Boomerang Nebula


The ALMA telescope has revealed this ghostly image of the Boomerang Nebula. The Boomerang Nebula is the coldest known object in the universe. Astronomers say it is one degree Kelvin (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit). It is a planetary nebula located about 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus.

Raghvendra Sahai, a researcher and principal scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement, "This ultra-cold object is extremely intriguing and we're learning much more about its true nature with ALMA. What seemed like a double lobe, or 'boomerang' shape, from Earth-based optical telescopes, is actually a much broader structure that is expanding rapidly into space."

Sahai is the lead author of the research paper published in Astrophysical Journal. The Boomerang Nebula has a dying central star that is producing an outflow of gas that is expanding rapidly and cooling itself in the process. The scientists say this process is similar to how refrigerators use expanding gas to produce cold temperatures.

Photo: NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA/STScI/JPL-Caltech