Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Its Hip to Be Square

This image of "The Red Square", named for its color and form, was made while studying a hot star. The star, known as MWC 922, is located about 5000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens (the Serpent). The image combines adaptive optics data from the Palomar Hale Telescope and the Keck-2 Telescope. Adaptive optics removes the blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere to produce very high resolution images. It was taken in near-infrared light (1.6 microns) and shows a region 30.8 arc seconds on a side around MWC 922. As the outer periphery of the nebula is very faint compared to the core, the image has been processed and sharpened to display the full panoply of detail and structure.

The startling degree of symmetry and level of intricate linear form make the Red Square nebula around MWC 922 the most symmetrical object of comparable complexity ever imaged. The overall architecture displays a twin opposed conical cavities (known as a bipolar nebula), along the axis of which can be seen a remarkable sequence of sharply defined linear rungs or bars. This series of rungs and conical surfaces lie nested, one within the next, down to the heart of the system, where the hyperbolic bicone surfaces are crossed by a dark lane running across the principle axis.

The image was created by Peter Tuthill, a researcher in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, Australia and James Lloyd, an assistant professor at Cornell University Astronomy Department.

For more on the Red Square Nebula have a look at this.

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