Binarity and Planetary Nebulae

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A new study has explained that planetary nebulae may not simply be nebula emissions from a star approaching the end of its life but could be the result of a binary central star system. The researchers behind this study are David Jones and Henri M.J. Boffin from Universidad of La Laguna and the European Southern Observatory respectively.

Planetary nebulae are thought to be bright shells of ionized gas and dust ejected by a star reaching the white dwarf stage. However, recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope has led many scientists to question the traditional understanding of planetary nebulae. Hubble revealed the complex morphology of planetary nebulae which cannot be the result of a single star system.

Jones and Boffin explain how a binary star system could form planetary nebulae. The researchers also revealed that while double-degenerate binarity made up of low-mass main-sequence stars should be harder to detect, it represents one-fifth of all known close-binary central stars. This study appeared in the Nature journal.

Study Proposes That Binarity is at the Core of Planetary Nebulae