Hubble Heritage Archive: Planetary Nebula NGC 5189

The text and images in this article were originally published on December 18, 2012, and reflect information about NGC 5189 available at that time.

A Cosmic Holiday Ornament, Hubble-Style

Tis the season for holiday decorating and tree-trimming. Not to be left out, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.

Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star like our Sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope. This material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures, as the ejection of mass from the star is uneven in both time and direction.

A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189. Most of the nebula is knotty and filamentary in its structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions.

This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days. 

The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.

This image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on October 8, 2012, in filters tuned to the specific colors of fluorescing sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Broad filters in the visible and near-infrared were used to capture the star colors.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Fast Facts about NGC 5189

About this Object

Object Name:NGC 5189
Object Description:Planetary Nebula
Positions (J2000):R.A. 13h 33m 32s.91 
Dec. –65° 58′ 26″.58
Constellation:Musca
Distance:~2,2000 light-years (675 parsecs)

About the Data

Data Description:The image was created from Hubble data from proposal 12812: Hubble Heritage Team: PI: Z. Levay (STScI), K. Noll (NASA/GSFC), and M. Mutchler, L. Frattare, W. Januszewski, C. Christian, T. Borders, M. Livio, J. Mack, and J. Sokol (STScI) 
Instrument:WFC3/UVIS
Filters:F502N ([O III]), F657N (H-alpha+[N II]), F673N [S II], F606W (V) and F814W (I)
Exposure Date:July 6, 2012
Exposure Time:7 hours

About this Image

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Colors: This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by Hubble’s WFC3 instrument. Several filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter. In this case, the assigned colors are:
F814W (I)  yellow
F606W (V)  blue
F673N [S II] green
F657N (Hα+[N II]) orange
F502N ([O III]) s cyan

Additional Images:

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