Chandra and HST images of planetary nebulae
Credit:X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical/IR: BD +30 & Hen 3: NASA/STScI/Univ. MD/J.P.Harrington; NGC 7027: NASA/STScI/Caltech/J.Westphal & W.Latter; Mz 3: NASA/STScI/Univ. Washington/B.Balick

Last Gasp of the Dying

Some worlds end in a whimper. When stars below a certain mass exhaust their nuclear fuel, they contract and (somehow) shed their outer layers. When this happens the stars form beautiful, incredibly detailed structures misnamed planetary nebulae. But while these stars begin their ends quietly, there's a last gasp, a final death cry, that the stars emit. This death cry takes the form of an extremely fast wind emitted from the stars surface. This wind can be revealed in X-ray images. The images above show a optical and infrared and X-ray images of four planetary nebula, along with X-ray images obtained by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The X-ray emission is produced from the collision of the slow and fast death winds.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:17 EDT