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Last Updated on March 2, 2024 by Universe Unriddled

Butterfly Nebula Facts

The Butterfly Nebula is a stunning celestial object that has fascinated astronomers and stargazers alike for decades.

It is a bipolar planetary nebula located in Scorpius, around 3,800 light years away from Earth. Its wingspan stretches across three light years, making it one of the most complex structures ever seen in a planetary nebula.

The Butterfly Nebula was given its name for its resemblance to a butterfly, with its intricate wings and vivid colors.

It is a remarkable sight to behold, and its beauty has captured the imagination of people around the world. But there is more to this celestial object than just its striking appearance.

The Butterfly Nebula is also a source of scientific inquiry, with astronomers studying its structure and composition to learn more about the universe around us.

Together, we will explore some fascinating Butterfly Nebula facts, including its origins, composition, and unique characteristics.

We will delve into the science behind this incredible celestial object, and examine what it can teach us about the universe we live in.

So, let’s take a journey through the stars and discover the wonders of the Butterfly Nebula.

Overview

The Butterfly Nebula, also known as NGC 6302, is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Scorpius, around 3,800 light years away from Earth.

Butterfly Nebula was captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

The stunning image of the Butterfly Nebula was captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope.

The image was taken using a combination of filters that highlight different features of the nebula, including its ionized gas and dust clouds.

The Butterfly Nebula is a fascinating deep space object that has captured the imagination of astronomers and stargazers alike.

Its complex structures, bipolar butterfly shape, and ionized gas make it a unique and beautiful sight in the night sky.

It is one of the most beautiful and fascinating objects in the night sky, with a unique structure that resembles a butterfly.

We will explore what the Butterfly Nebula is, how it was discovered, and some of its most interesting features.

What is the Butterfly Nebula?

The Butterfly Nebula is a bipolar planetary nebula, which means that it has two lobes or wings that are symmetrical with respect to the central star.

It was formed when a dying star, similar in mass to our Sun, ejected its outer layers into space.

The central star of the Butterfly Nebula is a white dwarf, which is the remnant of the original star. It has a surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees Celsius, making it one of the hottest objects in the universe.

Discovery of the Butterfly Nebula

The Butterfly Nebula was first discovered by the American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard in 1907.

He observed it using a 6-inch refracting telescope and described it as a “remarkable object of irregular form.” Later, in 1939, the nebula was catalogued as NGC 6302 in the New General Catalogue.

In 1975, the Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of the Butterfly Nebula, revealing its intricate structure in stunning detail.

Since then, it has been studied extensively by astronomers using various telescopes and instruments.

Interesting Features

The Butterfly Nebula has a wingspan that stretches across three light years, making it one of the largest planetary nebulae known.

It is also one of the most complex, with a highly structured and asymmetric shape. The nebula is surrounded by a dense torus of dust, which obscures the central star from direct view.

The Butterfly Nebula is a source of intense radiation and stellar wind, which have shaped its structure over time.

It contains a large amount of hydrogen gas, which glows brightly in the presence of ultraviolet radiation from the central star.

The Butterfly Nebula is also known by its other designations, including PK 349+01 1, Sharpless 6, Gum 60, and Caldwell 69. Its apparent dimensions are 40″ x 25″, and its absolute magnitude is -1.2. Its right ascension is 17h 13m 44.3s, and its declination is -37° 06′ 16″.

It rotates at a speed of about 20 km/s and has two jets that extend from its central star.

The Butterfly Nebula is a beautiful and fascinating object in the night sky, with a rich history and many interesting features.

Its unique structure and intense radiation make it a popular target for astronomers studying the mysteries of the universe.

Physical Characteristics

The Butterfly Nebula, also known as NGC 6302, is a stunning deep space object located in the constellation of Scorpius, approximately 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

This bipolar nebula is one of the most complex structures ever seen in a planetary nebula and has a striking butterfly-like shape that has earned it its name.

Let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of this amazing celestial object.

Shape and Structure

The Butterfly Nebula has a distinctive bipolar butterfly shape that is created by two large outflows of material from the star at its center.

These outflows are aligned along an axis of rotation, which is perpendicular to the line of sight from Earth.

The nebula’s S-shaped structure is believed to be caused by the orientation of the star’s magnetic field, which is tearing across space and shaping the ionized gas in the nebula.

At the center of the nebula lies a hot, white dwarf star, which is the remnant of a red-giant star that has ejected its outer layers into space during the final stages of its life.

The star’s ejections have created a doughnut-shaped ring of ionized gas and dust clouds around it.

The ring is heated to a temperature of around 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is expanding at a speed of approximately 600,000 miles an hour.

Temperature and Mass

The dying central star of the Butterfly Nebula is exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust.

With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees Celsius, the star is emitting a large amount of ultraviolet radiation, which is ionizing the gas in the nebula and causing it to glow.

The Butterfly Nebula has a mass of approximately 0.2 solar masses, which is relatively low for a planetary nebula.

However, it is still one of the brightest and most exceptional planetary nebulae known.

Distance and Location

The Butterfly Nebula is located in the constellation of Scorpius, which is visible in the southern night sky.

It is approximately 4,000 light-years away from Earth, making it a deep space object that can only be observed with powerful telescopes.

Observations and Research

Observing the Butterfly Nebula

The Butterfly Nebula, also known as NGC 6302, has been a source of fascination for astronomers for many years.

Observations of the nebula reveal a complex structure that has been shaped by the intense radiation and winds from the central star.

The nebula is located in the constellation Scorpius and is approximately 3,800 light-years away from Earth.

To observe the Butterfly Nebula, astronomers use a range of telescopes and instruments.

The Hubble Space Telescope has provided some of the most detailed images of the nebula, revealing intricate details of its structure and composition.

Infrared telescopes, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope, have also been used to study the nebula’s dust and gas content.

Recent Discoveries

Recent research into the Butterfly Nebula has revealed new insights into its structure and evolution.

For example, a team of astronomers led by J. Kastner discovered a new pattern of near-infrared emission from singly ionized iron in the nebula.

This emission traces an S shape from lower left to upper right and likely corresponds to the most recent ejections of gas from the central star system, which are moving at much faster speeds than the previously expelled mass.

Other studies have focused on the nebula’s central star, which is a hot, dying star that is shedding its outer layers of gas into space.

Observations of the star’s spectrum reveal that it is surrounded by a dense torus of dust that obscures its direct view.

However, recent research has suggested that this dust torus is not uniform and may have a clumpy structure that is responsible for some of the complex features seen in the nebula.

In addition to these discoveries, astronomers continue to study the Butterfly Nebula to better understand the processes that shape and evolve planetary nebulae.

By studying the nebula’s composition, structure, and dynamics, astronomers hope to gain insights into the late stages of stellar evolution and the formation of complex structures in space.

Overall, the Butterfly Nebula is a fascinating object that continues to reveal new surprises and insights to astronomers.

With ongoing observations and research, we can expect to learn even more about this beautiful and complex structure in the years to come.

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