Home Universe 20 Interesting Ant Nebula Facts

20 Interesting Ant Nebula Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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Our Earth is mysterious but if there is anything that can beat our Earth in terms of being mysterious, it is the vast space beyond our beloved blue orb. Of the several mysteries that await us out in the vast unknown, the Ant Nebula is one such object that grabbed our attention. We have already learned about Nebulae in general and also about the Boomerang Nebula – the coldest object in visible universe. Today, we will learn about the mysterious and mind-boggling Ant Nebula facts and find out about its location, its shape and its characteristics. Are you ready? Very well then, let’s begin…

Interesting Ant Nebula Facts: 1-5

1. Ant Nebula sits inside our Milky Way Galaxy. This makes it our neighbor. But, it is pretty far from us. It sits at a distance of 3,000 to 6,000 light years from our home planet – Earth.

2. This planetary nebula is located in the constellation named Norma.

3. The Ant Nebula is a planetary nebula and its official name is Menzel 3 or Mz3.

4. This nebula is often referred to as the Ant Nebula because it resembles a variety of garden ant.

5. This ant-like structure is reveal when a ground-based telescope is used for observing the nebula.

Interesting Ant Nebula Facts: 6-10

6. At the center of the Ant Nebula is bright dying star that is very much similar to our own Sun. This dying star is actually bleeding out material, which creates the shape of the ant.

7. On the left of the central star and on the right of the star are two nearly symmetrical lobes of gas and dust.

8. The left lobe of matter is what forms the head of the ant while the right lobe forms the thorax of the ant.

9. To make the whole thing complete, the streaming emissions from the central dying star make up the legs and thereby completing the image of the ant.

10. From tip of the head of the ant to the tip of the thorax of the ant, the distance is 1 light year.

Interesting Ant Nebula Facts: 11-15

11. This Ant Nebula is actually expanding. This expansion is happening at a very high speed of 50 kilometers per second.

12. This planetary nebula is really weird because the two prominent lobes ultra-hot gas and dust ejected by the central star. However, this ejection doesn’t follow the usual chaotic pattern seen in dying sun-like stars.

13. Instead of the chaos, two nearly symmetrical lobes are formed. Because of this unusual symmetry, old ideas related to planetary nebulae have been challenged. New ideas have been proposed to explain how circular stars, when they explode, create symmetries that are non-circular.

14. One theory proposed hinges on the idea that there is a companion star closely orbiting the central dying star of the Ant Nebula. This companion star exerts gravitational forces. These tidal forces are responsible for the unusual symmetrical pattern of the ejected mass.

15. However, for this theory to stand its ground, it is necessary that the companion star be close enough to the central dying star. Just how close? Approximately the distance between our own Sun and Earth. If that is the case, the companion star is most likely is orbiting the dying central star inside the bloated hulk of Ant Nebula or at least, it is very close the two symmetrical lobes. This by itself, is a very usual phenomenon.

Interesting Ant Nebula Facts: 16-20

16. The second theory floating around is that the central dying star is spinning rapidly. As a result, the magnetic fields of the star are twisted and twirled just like spaghetti strands.

17. The glowing gas of Menzel 3 successfully trace these complex patterns of the magnetic field, which is usually invisible.

18. Researchers say that extremely dense winds, composed of charged particles, are ejected out of the central dying star of the Ant Nebula. The ejection speed is about 3.5 million kilometers per hour. These dense winds follow the magnetic fields to move out into the space.

19. The central dying star of the Mz3 give out ultraviolet light, which makes the dense winds visible. Alternately, these charged particles in the dense wind, collide with the ambient gas. This collision results into the excitement of the material and causes the florescent glow.

20. It was Donald Howard Menzel who discovered the Ant Nebula back in 1922. This explains why the nebula has be cataloged as Menzel 3.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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