Hubble Telescope Spies A Cosmic ‘Butterfly’

Who knew that there are “butterflies” in deep space?

A new image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the bipolar planetary nebula PN M2-9, known as the Twin Jet Nebula, in all of its glory — and the cosmic beauty appears butterfly-like in shape and color.

The Twin Jet Nebula was first discovered by German-American astronomer Rudolph Minkowski (1895-1976) in 1947. While a previous image of the brilliant nebula was released in 1997, this latest image incorporates more recent observations.

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A ground-based view of the night sky, before zooming in on the Twin Jet Nebula, a bipolar planetary nebula, as the Hubble Space Telescope sees it.

Planetary nebulae are the glowing shells of gas given off by dying stars. Since the Twin Jet Nebula is a bipolar nebula, there are two stars at its core. Its butterfly-like “wings” are caused by the interaction of the two central stars, which are similar in mass to our sun and circle one another every 100 years.

Based on the expansion of the Twin Jet Nebula’s wings, astronomers have concluded that the nebula formed about 1,200 years ago — and the wings are still growing.

For more about the Twin Jet Nebula’s remarkable wings, check out the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope video below.

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