The nebula that disappeared into space

How long does a star live? How long does it take to die Star cycles are sometimes eternal to our human imagination. It takes millions of years for them to be born. The adult stage spans billions of years. Some take tens of thousands of years to fade. Now what happened to the fog that disappeared twenty years before Hubble?

The nebula that has disappeared into space, the Manta Ray Nebula, has become extinct.
The nebula that has disappeared into space, the Manta Ray Nebula, has become extinct.
Young and fleeting

It’s something unprecedented: the Manta Ray nebula disappeared in just two decades. The Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) confirms this.

The Manta Ray Nebula was introduced in 1998 as the youngest known planetary nebula. It has been calculated that the core of the central star was barely twenty years old. The data showed that given its low mass, the central star was warming faster than expected. And its size corresponds to a tenth of the usual dimensions of planetary nebulae. New work shows that it has faded over the past two decades.

“The changes are dramatic and strange,” says Martín A. Guerrero. He is a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia. “We watch the evolution of a nebula in real time and see variations in a few years,” he adds.

A comparison of the images received from Hubble in 2016 shows this. The fluorescent tentacles and gas filaments in the central regions almost disappeared. The curvilinear edges that suggested an association with stingrays have all but disappeared.

Oxygen emissions, in particular, decreased by a factor of almost a thousand between 1996 and 2016.

Changes in nebulae usually take millions of years.
Changes in nebulae usually take millions of years.
Volatile temperature

“You have seen changes in mist before. What we have here are changes in the basic structure of the nebula, “says Bruce Balick. He is a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle (USA).” In most cases, the nebula becomes larger. Instead, it changes shape and weakens on an unprecedented time scale. The inner elliptical ring, which was shiny, seems to shrink as it fades. ‘

The researchers point out that the nebula’s rapid changes are a reaction to its central star. Its surface temperature rose ten times the solar temperature in a short time. Since then a gradual decrease to 22,000 degrees has been recorded. The star cannot produce enough photons to keep the nebula ionized.

“It is difficult to know what his ultimate goal will be. The nebula that disappeared in space may be a fancy nebula, “concludes Guerrero. At current fading rates, it is estimated that the nebula will be barely detectable in 20 to 30 years.

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