THE UNDERAPPRECIATED FINE RING NEBULA
Photo By: ESO Faint Object Spectrograph and Camera mounted on the New Technology Telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile (Links below).
It may be small and somewhat underappreciated but faint nebulae need love just the same. Discovered by Harlow Shapley and crowned with his name, Shapley 1 or Sp 1, this planetary nebula is a little different that most. It’s normal in that it’s a planetary nebula created by a dying star whos outer layers of material are being expelled as the now white dwarf at center is well on the road to death. It’s also fairly normal in that it’s a binary star system (The progenitor star has a less massive partner star that orbits it every 2.9 days).
Where this structure is different lies in it’s expelled material distribution. Most planetaries are spherical, elliptical, bi polar etc. but this one here appears to literally be a ring. Not a ring as in the Ring Nebula, which just appears to be ring shaped because if it’s orientation in relation to us, but this structure appears to actually be ring or dounut shaped. It’s important to get oriented properly here; as we view this object we are looking directly “down“ onto one of its poles (Take your pick which) so the ring of material literally forms a ring around the white dwarf binary system. The leading theory is that the shape formed because of the specific interactions between the progenitor star and its partner star. In time, not unlike its famous bretheren, this white dwarf will fade into a brown dwarf and it’s nebula shall fade away into the cosmos until someday its called upon to join another mass of gas and dust to hatch a new generation of star into life……..
One of the most fascinating aspects to the study of planetary nebula (Or anything in the universe for that matter) is that there are so many different shapes and formations they can assume depending of the numerous variables that take place within and around them. Type, composition, size, binary, single, age, rate of rotation, partners rate of orbit, how fast the star is dying, etc, etc, etc. all have major implications as to what form the planetary will take on. And it’s all theories built upon by repeated observational data, that data fed into computers that render scary accurate simulations. Many, most or maybe even all of these models and theories will be forced to change and evolve over time as more observation reveals even more data……It’s truly the scientific method at its best.
NAME: Fine Ring Nebula, Shapley 1, SP 1, LPN 329+2.1.
WHAT IS IT?: Planetary Nebula.
HOW BIG IS IT?: About ¾ of a light year in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 2500 light years according to ESO.
HOW OLD IS IT?: Unknown.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: Very dim, the central star is only a faint 14 or +14.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Norma.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 15h 51m 40.96s / DEC -51° 31′ 28.74″.
European Southern Observatory (ESO) page for this object: http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1131a/
SIMBAD page for this object: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/sim-id?Ident=Fine+Ring+Nebula