Oldest Planetary Nebula Organized by 500 Million-Year-Old Clusters Discovered: All Details

Astronomers have found the oldest visible planetary nebula (PN) inside an open galaxy cluster (OC) 500 million years old. The rare celestial jewel has been discovered inside a star cluster called M37 and is believed to have high astrophysical value. Planetary nebulae (PNe) are luminous shrouds emanating from dying stars, shining with distinct colors and shapes, providing a breathtaking sight for astronomy lovers. The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong. They found that PN has a kinetic age of 70,000 years.

Recently spot PN, named IPHASX J055226.2 + 323724, is only the third planetary nebula out of a total of ~4,000 PNe known in our galaxy that shows a connection between PN and OC. In addition, it is believed to be the oldest PN discovered by astronomers to date.

They estimated the age by analyzing the expansion rate of the nebula as determined by the PN emission lines. They also assume that the rate has remained effectively the same since the beginning and is the time elapsed since the spherical shell was first ejected by the dying star.

planetary nebula university inline planetary nebula Hong Kong

Recently discovered planetary nebula IPHASX J055226.2 + 323724
Image source: University of Hong Kong

While the planetary nebula is quite old, it is still a blink away from the original star hundreds of millions of years old. The researchers claim that the “old lady dame” lives in a star cluster whose environment allows the team to identify powerful additional parameters that are not possible for the PN galaxy population as a whole.

These parameters include an estimate of the mass of the progenitor of PN as it turns off the main sequence of the star. The researchers were also able to estimate the residual mass of the central star from which the PNe was ejected through theoretical isochrones and observe the properties of the hot, blue central star.

Using this method, the team determined the size of the star that ejected the PN gas shell when it was born, as well as its remaining mass.

“I am delighted to be able to study these fascinating rare cases of OC-PN associations as they consistently produce important scientific results, like all three of the cases we have found. PN (dipole) butterflies in terms of shape, all very faint and highly evolved, and all having type I chemistry along their emission lines, and of course, all having mid-mitral neonatal mass. average to high,” speak former HKU PhD student, Dr. Vasiliki FRAGKOU. She is also the first author of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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