Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 13:48 EDT

Boomerang Nebula

Boomerang Nebula — The Boomerang nebula, also called the bowtie nebula since the Hubble space telescope revealed more detail, located 5,000 light-years from Earth,in the constellation Centaurus.

The Boomerang Nebula is one of the Universe’s peculiar places. In 1995, using the 15-metre Swedish ESO Submillimetre Telescope in Chile, astronomers Sahai and Nyman revealed that it is the coldest place in the Universe found so far.

With a temperature of -272 degrees C, it is only 1 degree warmer than absolute zero (the lowest limit for all temperatures). Even the -270 degrees C background glow from the Big Bang is warmer than this nebula. It is the only object found so far that has a temperature lower than the background radiation.

Keith Taylor and Mike Scarrott called it the Boomerang Nebula in 1980 after observing it with a large ground-based telescope in Australia. Unable to see the detail that only Hubble can reveal, the astronomers saw merely a slight asymmetry in the nebula’s lobes suggesting a curved shape like a boomerang. The high-resolution Hubble images indicate that “the Bow tie Nebula” would perhaps have been a better name.

The general bow-tie shape of the Boomerang appears to have been created by a very fierce 500 000 kilometre-per-hour wind blowing ultracold gas away from the dying central star. The star has been losing as much as one-thousandth of a solar mass of material per year for 1500 years. This is 10-100 times more than in other similar objects. The rapid expansion of the nebula has enabled it to become the coldest known region in the Universe.



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Boomerang Nebula