Indian astrophysicists have discovered large ultraviolet lobes and jets, hurled out from a dying star- NGC 6302, popularly called the Butterfly Nebula, using data from AstroSat, the space observatory launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2015.
What is a planetary nebula?
A planetary nebula is formed when a star like our Sun – or a few times heavier – is in its dying days. The term, a misnomer now, was coined by astronomers in the 19th century since the nebula looked like planets through their telescopes.
When hydrogen and helium fuel that kept the star shining gets exhausted, the star expands in size and becomes a red giant star. Such stars shed most of their outer layers which expands outwards, and the inner core, made of carbon and oxygen, shrinks further and becomes hotter. This hot core shines brightly in the ultraviolet, and ionises the expanding gas. This glowing ionised gas is what is seen as a planetary nebula.
- ASTROSAT is India’s first dedicated multi wavelength space observatory. This scientific satellite mission endeavours for a more detailed understanding of our universe.
- ASTROSAT is designed to observe the universe in the Visible, Ultraviolet, low and high energy X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum simultaneously with the help of its five payloads.
- Astrosat aims at understanding the high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
- This mission has put ISRO in a very exclusive club of nations that have space-based observatories. Only the United States, European Space Agency, Japan and Russia have such observatories in space.