When worlds collide !

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Mz 3 (Menzel 3) is a young bipolar planetary nebula in the constellation Norma.

It is composed of a bright core and four distinct high-velocity outflows that have been named lobes, columns, rays, and chakram.

Mz 3 is often referred to as the Ant Nebula because it resembles the head and thorax of a garden-variety ant.  

The Ant Nebula is 8,000 light years away from Earth and it has a magnitude of 13.8.  It was discovered by Donald Howard Menzel in 1922.

A planetary nebula is an emission nebula consisting of an expanding glowing shell of ionized gas ejected during the asymptotic giant branch phase of certain types of stars late in their life. Planetary nebula is a partial misnomer that originated with astronomer William Herschel, because when viewed through his telescope, these objects appeared to be clouds (nebulae) that were similar in appearance to Uranus, the planet that had been discovered telescopically by Herschel. Herschel's name for these objects was adopted by astronomers and has not been changed, even though planetary nebulae are now known to be completely unrelated to the planets of the solar system. Planetary nebulae often contain stars, but do not contain visible planets. They are a relatively short-lived phenomenon, lasting a few tens of thousands of years, compared to a typical stellar lifetime of several billion years.

Film buffs like +Alex Grossman or +stephanie wanamaker might recognize that the title of the post refers to the 1951 film directed by Rudolph Maté and the inspiration for the film Deep Impact.  Steven Spielberg and Stephen Sommers will be releasing a remake of this film later this year.  

Some other film buffs might also know a reference to this film in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Many thanks to +Mari Thomas who started me on this astronomy series of posts.  

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