STUNNING NEWS TODAY FROM HUBBLE & THE ASTRONOMY COMMUNITY……
Photo By: Collection of bi-polar planetary nebula from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (Links below).
What in the universe is going on out there?! Some freakishly fascinating news announced this morning September 4, 2013. We all know what bi-polar planetary nebula are by now correct? They are stars that have entered into their dying stage and their material being released into the cosmos becomes ionized by the central star, rendering it aglow. The reason for WHY they assume the bi-polar/hourglass shape is still a mystery though a few leading reasons are out there……now here’s the freaky part.
NASA and ESA have been using the Hubble Space Telescope to survey over 100 bi-polar planetary nebula and as we all know they are scattered throughout the galaxy and display many different variations. While conducting this survey, a startling pattern emerged…….they tend to be aligned in the same direction.
As this news literally just came out I’m going to leave you with an excerpt from ESA Hubble Space Telescope page. Hopefully more information will come of this soon………enjoy!
“This really is a surprising find and, if it holds true, a very important one,” explains Bryan Rees of the University of Manchester, one of the paper’s two authors. “Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy. By using images from both Hubble and the NTT we could get a really good view of these objects, so we could study them in great detail.”
The astronomers looked at 130 planetary nebulae in the Milky Way’s central bulge. They identified three different types, and peered closely at their characteristics and appearance.
“While two of these populations were completely randomly aligned in the sky, as expected, we found that the third — the bipolar nebulae — showed a surprising preference for a particular alignment,” says the paper’s second author Albert Zijlstra, also of the University of Manchester. “While any alignment at all is a surprise, to have it in the crowded central region of the galaxy is even more unexpected.”
Planetary nebulae are thought to be sculpted by the rotation of the star system from which they form. This is dependent on the properties of this system — for example, whether it is a binary or has a number of planets orbiting it, both of which may greatly influence the form of the blown bubble. The shapes of bipolar nebulae are some of the most extreme, and are thought to be caused by jets blowing mass outwards from the star system perpendicular to its orbit.
“The alignment we’re seeing for these bipolar nebulae indicates something bizarre about star systems within the central bulge,” explains Rees. “For them to line up in the way we see, the star systems that formed these nebulae would have to be rotating perpendicular to the interstellar clouds from which they formed, which is very strange.”
While the properties of their progenitor stars do shape these nebulae, this new finding hints at another more mysterious factor. Along with these complex stellar characteristics are those of our Milky Way; the whole central bulge rotates around the galactic centre. This bulge may have a greater influence than previously thought over our entire galaxy — via its magnetic fields. The astronomers suggest that the orderly behaviour of the planetary nebulae could have been caused by the presence of strong magnetic fields as the bulge formed.
As such nebulae closer to home do not line up in the same orderly way, these fields would have to have been many times stronger than they are in our present-day neighbourhood.
“We can learn a lot from studying these objects,” concludes Zijlstra. “If they really behave in this unexpected way, it has consequences for not just the past of individual stars, but for the past of our whole galaxy.”
 The “long axis” of a bipolar planetary nebula slices though the wings of the butterfly, whilst the “short axis” slices through the body.
 The shapes of the planetary nebula images were classified into three types, following conventions: elliptical, either with or without an aligned internal structure, and bipolar.
 A binary system consists of two stars rotating around their common centre of gravity.
 Very little is known about the origin and characteristics of the magnetic fields that were present in our galaxy when it was young, so it is unclear how they have changed over time.
NASA Hubble News Center page for this discovery: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/37/
ESA Hubble page for this discovery: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1316/