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Friday, January 22, 2021

The Blue Ring Nebula finally has an explanation after 16 years

Finally, there is a valid explanation from the scientists for the Remarkable Blue Ring Nebula which surrounds a central star (TYC 2597-765-1) which is 6,000 light-years distance from Earth. The astronomers came across this ultraviolet ring 16 years ago, that surrounded the star, with the help of NASA’s GALEX (Galaxy Evolution Explorer), a space telescope which is now obsolete. There have been many speculations about the ring since then but none of them came close to an explanation.

The research that took place recently using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii revealed that the ring which surrounds the star is nothing but two cone-shaped clouds that glow, made of molecular hydrogen, which extends away from the star on opposite sides. While observing from our planet, these clouds form an illusion like a ring.

A member of the GALEX team and a co-author on the new research Mark Seibert, an astrophysicist with the Carnegie Institution for Science, said in a statement: “Every time we thought we had this thing figured out, something would tell us, ‘No, that’s not right.’” He further said: “That’s a scary thing as a scientist. But I also love how unique this object is, and the effort that so many people put in to figure it out.”

Lead author of the study and a physicist at Caltech, Keri Hoadley stated: “The merging of two stars is fairly common, but they quickly become obscured by lots of dust as the ejecta from them expands and cools in space, which means we can’t see what has actually happened.” On Wednesday, the research was made public and the scientists involved in it believe that the fluorescent debris is a result of a collision with stars from a few thousand years ago, which is like the Sun.

The timing of this new research has been perfect as it explained the reason behind this phenomenon. Keri Hoadley said: “We think this object represents a late stage of these transient events when the dust finally clears and we have a good view, but we also caught the process before it was too far along; after time, the nebula will dissolve into the interstellar medium, and we would not be able to tell anything happened at all.”

A cloud made of hot debris was ejected into space due to the major collision and it also reached outwards. A shock wave was created which led to hydrogen molecules in the cloud to heat up. This chain of events that heated up produced ultraviolet emissions which were observed earlier in 2004, which saw a scenario where scientists were trying to find an explanation.

It was possible for the scientists to get the archived data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Survey Explorer (WISE) while doing the new research. It helped them understand that the dust surrounding the star is absorbing its energy followed by the reradiation in the infrared. It is also said that the disk is the reason behind the two cone-shapes which cut the cloud of debris into half which is now visible.

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