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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