Saturday, September 12, 2009

NGC 6543

This will be my last post on Nebulae.

NGC 6543, or the Catseye Nebula, is one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever seen. The images we have studied reveal "surprisingly intricate structures including concentric gas shells, jets of high-speed gas and unusual shock-induced knots of gas."

A preliminary hypothesis suggests that the star might be a double-star system. The suspected companion star may also be responsible for a pair of high speed jets of gas. If the companion star was pulling in material from a neighboring star jets escaping along the companion stars rotation axis could be produced.

NGC 6543 is 3,000 light years away in the northern constellation Draco. The term planetary nebula is a misnomer; dying stars create these cocoons when they lose outer layers of gas. The process has nothing to do with planet formation.