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Hubblecast 61: A tour of NGC 5189

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A planetary nebula represents one of the final stages in the life of a star like our own Sun Near the end of its life, before it consumes all of its remaining fuel a star expels its outer layers These are then excited by the radiation of the star and begin to glow brightly, showing intricate and fascinating structures that scientists are still trying to fully understand Hubblecast episode 61: a tour of NGC 5189 Presented by Dr J, aka Dr Joe Liske Hi and welcome to the Hubblecast In previous episodes, we’ve looked at a lot of Hubble’s images of planetary nebulae and we’ve talked about how they tell us about the ultimate fate of our own Sun In this episode, we’re going to take a closer look at just one of these a planetary nebula that, unlike many others doesn’t in fact look anything like a planet Known by its catalogue number NGC 5189 this planetary nebula might not sound very exciting When it was discovered in the 19th century the telescopes of the day could barely make out any structure But advances in telescope technology over a century and a half have borne fruit For a long time, the best image of this object was from the European Southern Observatory’s NTT which reveals NGC 5189’s complex spiral shape Then came a remarkable picture from the 8-metre Gemini South telescope But if you point Hubble at it… Well if you point Hubble at it, then you get to see some truly spectacular detail much of which has never been seen before And that’s of course due to Hubble’s unique vantage point above the Earth’s atmosphere If we zoom in close, which we can thanks to Hubble’s high resolution then we start seeing these very dense knots in the clouds of gas Hubble has seen these before, most famously in the Helix Nebula Now what’s going on here is that the radiation from the dying star is carving these knots into shape forming these glowing bow-wave-like patterns much like water flowing around a rock in a stream And these are all pointing towards the centre of the nebula The knots in NGC 5189 are a reminder of just how big planetary nebulae are They might look insignificant here but they are actually a similar size to the entire Solar System The star at the centre of the nebula, a dense white dwarf is far too small to see as anything other than a point of light even though it is roughly the size of the Earth NGC 5189’s spiral shape is perhaps its most obvious feature leading to its nickname of ‘the Spiral Planetary Nebula’ The structure is reminiscent of water coming from a lawn sprinkler and it’s probably due to the star rotating and wobbling as it expels matter Similar structures have been seen before especially in planetary nebulae with binary stars at their centres but whether there are two stars or just one at the centre of NGC 5189 remains an open question And so its shape and the science that lies behind it remain a fascinating area for astronomers to study This is Dr J, signing off for the Hubblecast Once again, nature has surprised us beyond our wildest imagination Hubblecast is produced by ESA/Hubble at the European Southern Observatory in Germany The Hubble mission is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency Transcribed by ESA/Hubble. Translation --

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 23 seconds
Country: Germany
Language: English
Producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Director: Oli Usher
Views: 103
Posted by: esahubble on Dec 17, 2012

In this episode of the Hubblecast, Dr Joe Liske (aka Dr J) invites us to tour NGC 5189, a planetary nebula in our galaxy. The nebula looks like a ribbon in space, with a complex structure that comes from the dying throes of a Sun-like star at its centre.

Visual design and editing: Martin Kornmesser
Web and technical support: Mathias Andre and Raquel Yumi Shida
Written by: Oli Usher
Narrator: Sara Mendes da Costa
Presented by: Dr Joe Liske (Dr J)
Images: NASA, ESA,, Digitized Sky Survey 2
Music: John Stanford
Directed by: Oli Usher
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen

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