The Red Square Nebula: One of the Most Beautiful Objects in the UniverseThe Red Square Nebula
is a celestial object located in the area of the sky occupied by star MWC 922
in the constellation Serpens
The first images of this bipolar nebula
, taken using the Mt. Palomar Hale telescope in California, were released in April 2007
. It is notable for its square shape, which according to Sydney University astrophysicist Peter Tuthill
, makes it one of the most symmetrical celestial objects ever discovered. So, if symmetry is a sign of splendor, then the Red Square nebula is one of the most beautiful objects in the universe.
In effect, the startling degree of symmetry and level of intricate linear form make the Red Square nebula around MWC 922 the most symmetrical object of comparable complexity ever imaged. The overall architecture
displays a twin opposed conical cavities (known as a bipolar nebula), along the axis of which can be seen a remarkable sequence of sharply defined linear rungs or bars. This series of rungs and conical surfaces lie nested, one within the next, down to the heart of the system, where the hyperbolic bicone surfaces are crossed by a dark lane running across the principle axis.What could cause a nebula to appear square?
No one is quite sure.
The below image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis
for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922
, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the sides.Supporting evidence
for the cone hypothesis includes radial spokes in the image that might run along the cone walls.
Researchers speculate that the cones viewed from another angle would appear similar to the gigantic rings of supernova 1987A
, possibly indicating that a star in MWC 922 might one day itself explode in a similar supernova.
After MWC 922 ejects most of its material into space, it will contract into a dense stellar corpse known as a white dwarf
, shrouded by clouds of its own remains.
The Red Square nebula discovery is detailed in the April 13 issue of the journal Science
► Image credit: Peter Tuthill (Sydney U.) & James Lloyd (Cornell)
► You can see an image of Red Square Nebula, reworked by me thanks to GeoGebra software and so... made sparkling.>>http://www.tutto-scienze.org/2012/12/felice-2013-dal-quadrato-rosso-dello.htmlFurther reading and references