Astronomy Picture of the Day
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November 2, 1995
The Red Rectangle
Telescope photograph by David Malin
The unusual geometry of this stellar nebula creates somewhat of a mystery.
At the nebula's centre is a young binary star system that probably created
the nebula, but how? This type of nebula shows a "bipolar flow" which
carries a significant amount of mass away from the central stars. It has
been speculated that the central stars create a pair of
jets that precess
like a spinning top. These jets might throw gas into a thick disk which we
see here edge on - so that it appears to us as a rectangle. The nebula
emission is also unusual in that some of the
infrared light it emits
might be associated with unusual carbon-containing molecules.
Tomorrow's picture: Jupiter's Moon Amalthea
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