Cosmic Butterfly: The Twin Jet Nebula

Posted on August 28, 2015

Twin Jet Nebula

The Twin Jet Nebula (PN M2-9) features two iridescent lobes that stretch outward from the central star system. The lobes each contain jets of gas streaming away from the star system at speeds over one million kilometers (621,400 miles) per hour.

PN M2-9 was first discovered by Rudolph Minkowski in 1947. The M in the nebula stands for his last name. The PN designation means it is a planetary nebula. It is a bipolar nebula with two stars at its system. Both stars have about the same mass as our sun. One if the stars is slightly larger than the other.

NASA scientists say the shape of wings of PN M2-9 is likely shaped by the motion of the two central stars around its other. NASA says in a statement, "It is believed that as the dying star and white dwarf orbit around their common center of mass, the ejected gas from the dying star is pulled into two lobes rather than expanding as a uniform sphere."

This Hubblecast discusses the PN M2-9 system and the origin of the name "planetary nebula," which involve stars and not planets. The new Hubble image of PN M2-9 more clearly shows the gases streaming from the central stars than previous images. A hi-res version of the image can be found here. Take a look:

Photo: ESA/Hubble & NASA