Featured Image: Extended Fireworks in Space

Are you planning to watch 4th of July fireworks tonight? Here’s a little preview on a cosmic scale! The images above — roughly 8’ across and captured by the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on the left and the Isaac Newton Telescope on the right — show the stunning planetary nebula NGC 6543 in all its large-scale glory. This may look a little different from images you’re used to seeing of NGC 6543, however: the most commonly seen view is of just the inner ~45” of this nebula (shown in the top image third from the left in the grid below). In a new study led by Xuan Fang (The University of Hong Kong and the National Astronomical Observatories, NAOC, in China), a team of scientists has used the CFHT to explore the extended molecular hydrogen structures of 11 planetary nebulae. The team’s work help us to better understand how these nebulae spread out into their surroundings after being expelled from dying, low-mass stars, and how the gas of the nebulae interacts with the interstellar medium. For more information — and lots of spectacular images of planetary nebulae — check out the article linked below!

planetary nebulae

The inner regions of just a few of the planetary nebulae the authors explore in this study. [Adapted from Fang et al. 2018]


Xuan Fang et al 2018 ApJ 859 92. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aac01e