Tech

March 30, 2012

NASA’s SOFIA captures images of the planetary nebula M2-9


NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/FORCAST team photograph
NASA's SOFIA telescope and the FORCAST instrument captured this color-composite image of the planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9 (M2-9) showing a dying sun-like star.

Researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy have captured infrared images of the last exhalations of a dying sun-like star.

The object observed by SOFIA, planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9, or M2-9 for short, is seen in this three-color composite image.

The SOFIA observations were made at the mid-infrared wavelengths of 20, 24, and 37 microns. The 37-micron wavelength band detects the strongest emissions from the nebula and is impossible to observe from ground-based telescopes.

Objects such as M2-9 are called planetary nebulae due to a mistake made by early astronomers who discovered these objects while sweeping the sky with small telescopes. Many of these nebulae have the color, shape and size of Uranus and Neptune, so they were dubbed planetary nebulae. The name persists despite the fact that these nebulae are now known to be distant clouds of material, far beyond our solar system, that are shed by stars about the size of our sun undergoing upheavals during their final life stages.

Although the M2-9 nebular material is flowing out from a spherical star, it is extended in one dimension, appearing as a cylinder or hourglass. Astronomers hypothesize that planetary nebulae with such shapes are produced by opposing flows of high-speed material caused by a disk of material around the dying star at the center of the nebula. SOFIA’s observations of M2-9 were designed to study the outflow in detail with the goal of better understanding this stellar life cycle stage that is important in our galaxy’s evolution.

“The SOFIA images provide our most complete picture of the outflowing material on its way to being recycled into the next generation of stars and planets,” said Michael Werner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., principal investigator of these observations. “We were gratified to see the lobes so clearly using SOFIA. These early results demonstrate the scientific potential of this important new observatory.”

The observations were made using the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope instrument in June 2011 by a team consisting of astronomers from JPL, the California Institute of Technology, the University of California at Los Angeles, Cornell University and Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y. Preliminary analyses of these data were first presented in January 2012 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.

The SOFIA observatory combines an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft and a 17-metric-ton reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches) to altitudes as high as 45,000 feet (14 km), above more than 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that blocks most infrared radiation from celestial sources.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, and is based and managed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA photograph by Chris Rink

NASA flies stormy Kansas Skies this summer for science

NASA photograph by Chris Rink Richard Ferrare, a senior research scientist from the Atmospheric Sciences Division at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., monitors the data input from the Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Exper...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

DC-8 reaches milestone

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas NASA’s DC-8 makes a low approach to Edwards Air Force Base. NASA’s DC-8 Flying Laboratory recently reached its third decade of delivering groundbreaking science. As a way to celebrate...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA Armstrong leads team to test effects of volcanic ash on aircraft engines

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida Volcanic ash is sprayed into one of the F117 engines of a C-17 during the final phase of the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) project July 9 at Edwards. The VIPR team, comprised of NA...
 

 
NASA photograph

NASA, partners test unmanned aircraft systems

NASA photograph NASA’s Ikhana is being used to test a system that will allow uncrewed aircraft to fly routine operations within the National Airspace System. NASA, working with government and industry partners, is testing...
 
 
NASA photograph

NASA-developed air traffic management tool flies into use

NASA photograph NASA Future Flight Central is a national Air Traffic Control/Air Traffic Management (ATC/ATM) simulation facility. The two-story facility offers a 360-degree full-scale, real-time simulation of an airport, where...
 
 
NASA photograph

Robotics teams prepare to compete for $1.5 million in NASA Challenge

NASA photograph The Los Angeles team Survey’s robot is seen as it conducts a demonstration of the level two challenge during the 2014 NASA Centennial Challenges Sample Return Robot Challenge, Thursday, June 12, 2014, at t...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>