The Remains of a Sun-like Star: The Necklace Nebula

The Necklace Nebula

If our sun had a large binary companion, what would it’s remains look like?  Quite possibly the Necklace Nebula.  This planetary nebula, which contains the remnants of a sun-like star, was recently discovered in 2005 during the Isaac Newton Telescope Photometric H-alpha Survey (IPHAS).

Scientists think that this star system started it’s life in our universe as two stars orbiting around one another (a binary system).  As the stars aged, stellar mass from one star was transferred to the other star causing one star to balloon outward.  As the larger star grew, the smaller star stayed within the gravitational influence of the larger star causing the larger star to spin faster and faster.  Eventually the larger star engulfed the smaller star and spun it’s outer shell of gas out into space – which produced the ring that we see today.

The ring around the suns (which can still be seen in the center) measures roughly two light years in diameter.  The bright dots along the ring are dense blobs of gas.  These blobs glow because they absorb ultraviolet light from the central stars.

This unusual planetary nebula gets it’s name from the bright blobs which resemble diamonds on a necklace.  This beauty is about 15,000 light years away and can be found in the constellation of Sagitta.

IMAGE CREDIT:  Hubble Space Telescope/Wide Field Camera 3

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