Astronomy Picture of the Day

Planetary Nebula Mz3: The Ant Nebula

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#73146 by @ 02.05.2005 00:00 - nach oben -
Planetary Nebula Mz3: The Ant Nebula

Why isn't this ant a big sphere?

Planetary nebula Mz3 is being cast off by a star similar to our
that is, surely, round.

Why then would the gas that is streaming away create an
ant-shaped nebula that is distinctly not round?

Clues might include
the high 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the
light-year long length of the structure, and the
magnetism of the star

visible above at the nebula's center.

One possible answer is that
Mz3 is hiding a second, dimmer star that
orbits close in to the bright star.

A competing hypothesis holds that the central star's own spin and
magnetic field are channeling the gas.

Since the central star appears to be so similar to our own Sun,
astronomers hope that increased understanding of the history of
this giant space ant can provide useful insight into the likely
future of our own Sun and

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