Xs, Boomerangs and Butterflies

Credit: NASA & ESA

The wings of gas and dust of the Boomerang Nebula blossom into the letter X. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope took this image of twin reflecting clouds of gas and dust being ejected from this star. Astronomers call these bi-polar nebulae, butterfly nebulae or bow-tie nebulae. Scientists aren’t sure why the material from the star is being ejected in this way. Perhaps denser material across the star’s middle is forcing the star to eject gas and dust at the star’s poles. Or, maybe magnetic fields are funneling material toward the poles.

Explore the nebula. Travel from the central star along the wings of the nebula. Each wing of this nebula is more than a light-year long. Altogether this whole nebula would reach from the Sun to halfway to our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

The Boomerang Nebula lies about 5,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of Centaurus.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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