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Supersonic Exhaust From Nebula
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Supersonic Exhaust From Nebula M2-9 is a striking example of a "butterfly" or a bipolar planetary nebula. Ground-based studies have shown that the nebula's size increases with time, suggesting that the stellar outburst that formed the lobes occurred just 1,200 years ago. The central star in M2-9 is known to be one of a very close pair which orbit one another at perilously close distances. It is even possible that one star is being engulfed by the other. Astronomers suspect the gravity of one star pulls weakly bound gas from the surface of the other and flings it into a thin, dense disk which surrounds both stars and extends well into space. M2-9 is 2,100 light-years away in the constellation Ophiucus. This observation was taken Aug 2, 1997 by the Hubble telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.
February 20th, 2013
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